Wetenschap - 8 februari 2001

English Summary

University Vice-chancellor Professor Bert Speelman emphasised that a possible interfaculty for animal science and health with the University of Utrecht will not mean a departure of Zodiac for Utrecht. The Wageningen department will stay where it is. The Dean of the veterinary faculty at Utrecht also confirmed this at a recent meeting, saying that it will be the lecturers who travel and not the students.

Students at Wageningen University are not wild about computer assisted learning as it stands right now: too little contact with teachers, too many hours at the computer, headaches and mouse arms are among the complaints.

While the first course received a satisfactory grade from most, the most frequent complaint was the lack of clarity about assignments and the lack of supervision. Adjustments have been made: student assistants now work with the groups for twenty hours a week, and lecturers also check personally with the groups. Nevertheless, the emphasis has shifted from practical field work to more time spent on frequently confusing internet detective work.

According to a BBC documentary on 7 January farmed salmon is the victim of overcrowded cages, which lead to skeletal deformities, as well as parasites and dioxins. According to Wageningen fish specialists, it was not so much that the documentary was wrong, but rather that an incomplete picture was presented.

Professor Johan Verreth of the Fish Culture and Fisheries Group explains that the higher levels of PCBs and dioxins found in some farmed salmon are temporary, as El Nino has reduced the 'clean' fish harvest on the Peruvian and Chilean coast. As a result more polluted fish from the Baltic are used to make fish feed. According to Dr Marc Verdegem of the same Group, skeletal deformities are also found in wild salmon populations. The programme has led to changes, however: Nutreco has started looking for other cleaner sources of fish for fish feed, and is also examining the use of plant proteins for feed.

Wageningen researchers are involved in an international research project to develop health promoting soya and dairy products.

The aim is to get bacteria to make health promoting products by genetically modifying the bacteria, or finding new variants. Calorie-reduced products are first on the list, if bacteria can be made to produce sugars containing fewer calories such as sorbitol. The researchers are also hoping to develop products which cause fewer allergic reactions: many people are allergic to dairy products because they cannot tolerate lactose, or to soya products because of the raffinose that they contain. The search is also on for micro-organisms that can produce more B vitamins, often lacking in the diets of older people. The four year project is being coordinated by Dr Jeroen Hugenholtz of Nizo Food Research and the Wageningen Centre for Food Sciences (WCFS), and is worth 3.6 million Euros.

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