Wetenschap - 13 juni 2002

English summary

www.gcw.nl/wispr

The carcinogenic substance acrylamide has been found in food: is this cause for alarm or not? The Scandinavians are worried, an American journalist is sceptical. Wb asked a Wageningen researcher Professor Tiny van Boekel for his opinion. See the Wispr website for the translation of the commentary on page 7.

Following the news that the planned interfaculty between the animal sciences in Wageningen and Utrecht will not go ahead the animal scientists here are faced with a new trend and the dilemma of what to do with it.

Companion animals are in, known in everyday language as cats, dogs and horses, whereas Wageningen has traditionally concentrated on farm animals. A broadening of the animal spectrum would probably attract more students and the labour market is also ready for more cuddly animal specialists, but obtaining permission for experiments on dogs and cats is likely to be somewhat more problematic than for chickens and pigs.

The secretaries in the social sciences building De Leeuwenborch have managed to have plans to change their workplace scrapped.

Part of the renovation plan for this building was to move the secretaries from their separate corridors and chair groups and centralise them in the hall area by the lifts on each floor. The idea was that the secretaries could then cover for each other during absences and it would have created more room for extra members of staff for the chair groups, and enabled some employees of the Agricultural Economics Research Institute to move into the building. The secretaries protested that it would not be possible to concentrate, some of their work is confidential and that they want to remain attached to specific chair groups. Their arguments won the day.

Michael M?ller, Professor of Nutrition, Metabolism and Genomics, explained in his inaugural lecture at the beginning of May how nutrients communicate with the human body. The traditional view of nutrients as substances that the body processes is not correct. There is increasing evidence that substances in food communicate with proteins in human cells. For example, the small intestine does not just absorb any old fats; long fatty acids are only absorbed if they are attached to the protein FATP4. In an age where more and more people are dying from 'welfare diseases' research on these processes is becoming increasingly important.

Secretary of state for agriculture Geke Faber wants to rescue and treat seals affected by a virus that has already killed hundreds of seals in Denmark.

Alterra Texel is against the idea of 'doctoring' seals. As long as the Dutch Waddenzee population remains above five hundred, the number considered necessary for a genetically healthy minimum population, intervention only interferes with the wild and natural features of the seals. Alterra Texel chief Dr Han Lindeboom believes the population is large enough to survive the virus outbreak even if sixty percent of the five thousand strong population were to die.

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