‘The Fries-Hollands cattle breed!’ We all had something to say about the preselection for the voting for the ‘Showpiece of the Netherlands’, run by national television. But my friends at home could not understand why I wanted to add a breed of cattle.
I tried to explain. How Dutch agriculture deserves some recognition for its expertise, including in the sometimes criticized field of dairy farming. How the now rare Fries-Hollands breed played an important role in the professionalization of dairy farming, and how its highly productive descendant, the Holstein-Frisian, now dominates the world. And how the Netherlands certainly didn’t always take the lead in these developments, but was always on the scene as an innovative little dairy farming country. And how precisely for that reason the Fries-Hollands cow would be a much more meaningful showpiece that the twice-nominated Delft blue. But it was all dismissed as Wageningen babble.
So there is obviously such a thing as ‘Wageningen-tinted spectacles’. In that case, a Wageningen selection could be drawn up, it occurred to me. Showpieces of WUR. With the WUR centenary coming up, these kinds of lists will be on the cards anyway. So here are a few suggestions for a start: The Common European Agricultural Policy by honorary doctorate holder Sicco Mansholt, the CELOS forestry system from the 1970s, and CRISPR-Cas9 for its microbiology contribution to technology. Because a showpiece is allowed to be controversial, lost in the mists of time, or a joint achievement. After all, that can make all the difference. Between an iconic cattle breed and cheap 16th century imitation porcelain, for example.