The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN, FAO, will celebrate its 50th anniversary in October this year. There is little need for celebrations, state Dutch FAO observers. Apart from budget problems, mainly due to the decrease in the contribution from the US government, FAO is hampered by bad leadership and a top-down approach to raising agricultural production. FAO should reformulate its mission, says WAU Professor Fresco: it should focus on its roles of providing a global database and advising governments on sustainable land use systems. The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture is critical of the strategy of FAO's new director, Diouf, promoting a green revolution in Africa.
WAU students study hard it seems: on average they obtain twenty-five credit points more than necessary during their study, the equivalent of a thousand hour's work. WAU's Executive Board, aiming at limiting the number of courses, wants students to pay for extra courses. The university will only pay for courses in the regular programmes; the optional courses are too expensive. Several heads of department oppose this policy. Don't bother students who want to work harder," says professor Van 't Riet. If the students consume too much education, the courses are not tough enough," says professor Van der Heide.
Last week saw the start of a series of lectures on evolution theories at the university. Biologists are focusing too much on the role of genes and DNA in explaining characteristics of plants and animals," says Brian Goodwin, who will visit De Wereld on 12th and 13th October. The environment also influences the performance and shape of living material. Because genetic research is rarely related to population dynamics, the field of environmental biology is about to disappear, explains zoologist Professor Osse.
An economically and ecologically sustainable animal husbandry in Holland seems possible," says WAU zoologist Van Bruchem, who wants to limit the Dutch manure surplus. Dairy farmers should use less food concentrates and artificial fertilizers. The concentrates and fertilizers are the main cause of the nitrogen and phosphorus surplus produced by dairy farming. The WAU researchers should develop cows, grasses and feed which are less dependent on concentrates and fertilizers, says Van Bruchem.
One of the leading Dutch philosophers in the natural sciences, Hans Achterhuis, will give a talk about his new book, Nature between myths and technique, in De Wereld on 25th October. Former philosophy lecturer at WAU, Herman Koningsveld, is challenging Achterhuis' dichotomy of Mother Earth versus Space Ship Earth, ruled by a technocratic elite and inhabited by people who want to control nature and exploit its usefulness to survive. This is ridiculous, says Koningsveld; people have an emotional and moral life, and to be human is to give a meaning to life.