Wetenschap - 15 maart 2001

English Summary

The security manager for Wageningen University, Gerrit van Scherrenburg, is worried about the ease with which daylight robbery can take place in the university buildings.

While nighttime security has improved over the last years, especially since the introduction of security patrollers in cars five years ago, during the day it remains very easy for outsiders to just walk into university buildings and walk out again with the booty. Each year between fifty and a hundred thousand guilders' worth of equipment is lifted from university buildings. Van Scherrenburg is in favour of making it more difficult to gain access to university buildings for those who have no business there: more signs with 'entrance forbidden', encouraging receptionists to send people away if it is not clear what they have come for, passes with chips for those who are allowed in.

A Wageningen PhD researcher in the sub-department of Food and Bioprocess Engineering has discovered a way to speed up the process for making Japanese soya sauce.

It takes six months to make this product: the taste is produced by micro-organisms in the form of yeast cells. The fermentation of the yeast is responsible for the characteristic flavour of Japanese soya sauce. In the traditional process large amounts of yeast are lost together with the fluid which is drained. By capturing yeast cells in a gel, Catrinus van der Sluis managed to reduce the amount of time necessary for the flavour to develop. The gel particles are large enough to be stopped by a filter, and so the yeast remains longer in the liquid and can do its work more effectively. Van der Sluis is supervised by Professor Hans Tramper and will graduate on 3 April.

Plant Research International and ATO (Agrotechnological Research Institute) are collaborating on a project to develop DNA chips which can be used in the whole production chain to measure and predict quality of fruit, vegetables and cut flowers.

By measuring DNA activity the chips not only measure quality at a particular moment, but also give an indication of processes which will lead to quality differences at a later point. Plant Research International has the genetic knowledge and ATO is contributing with product and chain knowledge to develop faster and cheaper chips. The information is useful not only to growers, but also breeders, wholesalers and the food processing industry, and consumers can look forward to longer lasting flowers in the vase.

While it has long been known that substances imitating female sex hormones (xeno-oestrogens) are found in rivers and sea water and that they have considerable impact on the wildlife there, a Wageningen PhD researcher has now developed a way of measuring the effects of the various compounds.

Working in the sub-department of Toxicology and also the Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology in Utrecht, Juliette Legler developed two new biological tools which can identify oestrogenic compounds and determine whether they are present in the environment at levels that may interfere with reproduction or endocrine functioning in organisms. Preliminary studies in the Netherlands indicate that domestic wastewater treatment plant effluent in some areas contains worrying amounts of oestrogen waste from contraceptive pills. Legler graduated on 27 February, and was supervised by Professor Jan Koeman.

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