Wetenschap - 16 mei 2002

English summary

After the annual liberation day celebrations of 5 May, Wageningen was in the limelight only two days later, the centre this time of unwanted attention as the news broke that the suspected murderer of politician Pim Fortuyn had studied and worked in this town.

Since then, Volkert van der G. has been the subject of many a conversation and much speculation has gone on in the national press. Needless to say much of this edition of Wb is also devoted to the consequences of the tragic event of 6 May.

Volkert van der G. (32) came to Wageningen in 1987 to start a degree in Environmental Hygiene. He did not complete this, but turned his attention to environmental activism in 1990. Two years later he founded the Vereniging Milieu-offensief (VMO) together with Sjoerd van de Wouw, an organisation that devotes its attention to fighting legal battles to get incorrect environmental licences issued to livestock farmers withdrawn. The organisation confines itself to long legal procedures and does not support violence in any form. VMO condemned the murder of Pim Fortuyn and was shocked that one of their members is the suspected murderer. From interviews with people who have studied, lived and worked with Volkert van der G. in Wageningen a picture emerges of a loner, dedicated to the cause of protecting the rights of farm animals.

In the light of the murder of Pim Fortuyn the debate in Wb this week posed the question, is Wageningen a breeding ground for violent forms of activism? Those interviewed all expressed their shock and surprise at hearing that the suspected murderer had anything to do with Wageningen. Sociologist Kees de Hoog points out that all universities have groups with a sectarian nature, composed of people who are convinced that their opinions are the only right ones. Student counsellor Jan van Bommel associates Wageningen students with idealism that has more in common with flower power than violent radicalism.

Professor Wim van Vierssen will become director of the Environmental Sciences Expertise Group of Wageningen UR at the beginning of August.

Van Vierssen will take over from Dr Andr? van der Zande. Van Vierssen is currently Vice Chancellor of the internationally acclaimed Institute for Infrastructural, Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE) in Delft, and before that was director of the Netherlands Institute for Ecological Research of the KNAW.

Wageningen and Russian biology researchers have received a grant of 110,000 euros from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research which they plan to use to try and work out why some bacteria disappear without trace when introduced into open soil.

Headed by Professor Ariena van Bruggen of the Biological Farming Systems Group and microbiologists from the Engelhardt Institute in Moscow, the researchers will investigate the hypothesis that organically farmed soil contains a wide variety of micro-organisms that act as a buffer, thus reducing the chance of survival of foreign bacteria.

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