Wetenschap - 8 november 2001

English summary

Last Tuesday all SSHW student rooms were officially connected to the lightning speed glass fibre network of Wageningen UR.

Dubbed 'Homewurk' this cable connection is far quicker than one relying on a modem or even a traditional cable provider, and means students can be online the whole time, from the comfort of their own rooms. Seventy percent of Wageningen students rent a room from SSHW, and will be able to use the network for their own administration, registration for exams and checking test results.

The National Plant Collection (SNP) of the Netherlands, in which Wageningen University participates with its botanical gardens, is to develop a code of behaviour for the international exchange of plants.

The international Convention on Biological Diversity sets limits to the unbridled exchange of plant material which traditionally took place between the 650 botanical gardens in the world. Countries of origin of plants now have rights to those plants, and therefore also to their commercial use, for example in pharmaceutical products or as ornamental plants. At the same time exchange must not be too limited, as this can lead to the extinction of rarer plants.

Dutch Minister of Agriculture Laurens Jan Brinkhorst announced last week that the Dutch problem of excess manure levels on farms was a thing of the past.

This was based on the number of farmers who had registered as stopping with livestock keeping, which would save eight million kilos of phosphates. Opinions vary as to whether the problem has now really disappeared. According to EU civil servants the Netherlands is the smelliest country in Europe, and they are not in favour of the Dutch mineral registration system Minas. According to Dr Gert-Jan Monteny of IMAG the EU is not interested in surpluses but in reducing the amount of fertiliser spread on plots in the first place, in which case the Netherlands still has a long way to go.

Peter Folbert of the Agricultural Economics Research Institute LEI has just published a report in which he surveyed the way in which the government can communicate with the public during food crises.

Folbert's conclusion is that better government communication can help to still consumer worries. During a crisis the onus is on the government to communicate clearly to consumers. During times when there is no particular crisis the government could also consider interactive forms of communication with consumer and public groups to ensure the two-way communication takes place. Folbert cites the website of the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a good example of accessible information on food safety issues.