Early in the morning Radio One reports on the growing numbers of students at Wageningen University. But government funding is not keeping pace, says Tijs Breukink, our finance guy. He emphasizes that the shortfall is not just a problem for us, but something society should not accept either. Absolutely right.
Don’t agree, though, with Martin Kropff’s argumentation in his appeal for more funding. The Netherlands is the second biggest exporter of food in the world! We export 80 billion euros’ worth per year. Hurrah! We must keep that figure growing in the coming years, so there should be more funding for Wageningen. This kind of upbeat story reminds me of a 1984 Loesje poster: ‘When will this growth economy finally be grown-up?’
The other side of the upbeat story is that we import 50 billion euros’ worth of soya, grains, vegetable oils etc., most of which is consumed by our 60 million pigs, 45 million broiler chickens, 40 million layer hens and 5 million cows. With all inevitable production of manure, to add to that produced by 17 million Dutch people. Then you can add the production of artificial fertilizer. One Limburg factory produces 180 tonnes of artificial fertilizer per hour. What happens to all the minerals from all this manure and artificial fertilizer? You might be happy with a positive balance of 30 billion, but what price do you put on the climate change, loss of biodiversity and polluted groundwater? Not to speak of the emptying countryside, and the low profits for our farmers? Positive reductionism leads to a negative, broken whole.
We need money in order to develop an economy with fair profits for everyone in the chain, and to make sure it delivers a sustainable (agricultural) society. All that banging on about economic growth belongs to the past; when are we finally going to wake up and start thinking holistically?