Nieuws - 13 september 2012

Proposition: Aalt Dijkhuizen's plea for intensive agriculture is inappropriate

Marlies Bos (the left-wing fluffy type) and Jillis Herweijer (the right-wing Hooray Henry type) rarely see eye to eye on matters of politics, the environment or student life.

Marlies: Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion on the question of food security and intensive agriculture. That includes Aalt Dijkhuizen. However, Aalt Dijkhuizen represents a university which houses many different opinions on the topic. He is well aware of this himself and that is why I think it is somewhat inappropriate that he should so loudly proclaim his own (in my eyes rather simplistic) view, as if everyone within the WUR thinks the same way. A lot more subtlety and particularly recognition of the many differing views, especially within the WUR, would have been more appropriate. As well as mentioning: this is my personal opinion, within my university many think differently. That would show much more respect towards your own colleagues.
Jillis responds: Dijkhuizen is not just announcing his 'opinion' but also supporting it with a scientific source. That science is a dynamic phenomenon, in which today's knowledge can be superseded tomorrow, is clear. The lack of a scientific consensus does not seem, to me, to be an impediment to Dijkhuizen providing a well-founded contribution to an ongoing debate. In the end it is about cold hard facts and not emotion-based opinions.
Jillis: At the opening of the academic year Aalt Dijkhuizen made a number of controversial claims about the intensification of agriculture and food supplies which have caused consternation in Wageningen. The storm of collective indignation this has raised amazes me. It seems to me that a functionary charged with giving such a year opening speech should actually say something substantive, rather than merely trotting out some obligatory platitudes. Besides, it is the director's task to keep the debate running, or indeed open it. The fact that so many people saw it as a personal attack proves it is important that somebody like Dijkhuizen should keep the debate lively. The emotional nature of many of the reactions indicates that, for some, the topic seems to have taken on a dogmatic, almost religious nature; a bad sign as one expects scientists to have a less blinkered view of the world.
Marlies responds: Keeping the debate running is good, but starting a debate by simply announcing your own opinion in public, without taking into account that a large number of your own colleagues disagree, is, in my view, the wrong approach. Far better to conduct an internal debate, and make clear to the outside world that there are multiple different visions within the WUR.