Happy about four more years of Fresco?

The Supervisory Board has reappointed Louise Fresco as president of the WUR Executive Board. Staff are generally pleased with the decision. ‘Everyone has heard of her, and that in itself puts you 1-0 ahead.’ But some wishes are expressed too. ‘WUR should stick its neck out more in public debate.’

Ilustration Henk van Ruitenbeek

Tia Hermans

Researcher at Wageningen Environmental Research

‘Louise is often praised for her efforts for society but I would like her to pay more attention to biodiversity. She talks a lot about the food supply and agriculture, but she neglects the role of nature and biodiversity. So I hope Louise will broaden her field of vision in the next four years, to address the importance of nature and biodiversity and how you can create more space for them in the context of the powerful agriculture sector and the economy. There are people at ESG who know a lot about that, such as David Kleijn, Arnold van Vliet and Herbert Prins. It would help ESG if Louise took a position on it too, as board president. After all, she has more impact than we do.’

Guido Camps

Researcher at Human Nutrition (NB: Camps is chair of the WUR Council but speaks here in a personal capacity)

‘Wageningen has a wonderful university and we deserve an excellent figurehead. In Wageningen we can sometimes be a bit too inward-looking and then you run the risk of not selling yourself well in the big cities. So in my view there is no better person for the job than Louise Fresco, with her authority, her outward-looking attitude and her good network. So I am very pleased about her reappointment. And she should definitely carry on with public dialogue and things like the new collaboration with the technical universities. I hear criticism of Fresco as well, but then I think: so what do you want? Can you tell me who is the president of the university of Utrecht, Nijmegen or Groningen? We’ve got Fresco. Everyone has heard of her and that in itself puts you 1-0 ahead.’

Jaap Schröder

Researcher at Wageningen Plant Research

I think a multitalented person like Fresco is more capable than her predecessor of harnessing synergies and economic trends. Anything is better than a monomaniac president who confuses ‘efficient agriculture’ with ‘clean agriculture’. What did disappoint me was the prospect Fresco outlined in De Volkskrant. It came across as a blind defence of high-tech farming, as if it didn’t have to be weighed up against nature-inclusive alternatives. Hopefully that was a one-off slip. I also hope that in the next four years Fresco will have the courage to address non-Wageningen issues such as cutting meat consumption and family planning – which are good for nature and the environment too. At the moment Fresco tolerates categorical statements by WUR staff that livestock is indispensable to the circular economy. And that really is too big a claim.’

Bart Gremmen

Professor of the Ethics of Life Sciences

‘I think it’s a very good thing that Fresco has made a point of One Wageningen: that has pulled down fences that separated the university from the institutes. It is unfortunate that we now come under two different ministries, which is bound to increase the red tape. So One Wageningen is extra important now. I still think Wageningen has an important role to play in public debate. I think WUR should stick its neck out more there. WUR has made a massive contribution to the benefits of present-day agriculture, but we don’t talk enough about the down side of that agriculture. Fresco is always positive; she thinks we can achieve food security with agriculture and technology, but during this centenary year we have yet to see any discussion with the critics of the current agriculture model. WUR should support that discussion, I think.’

Karin Schroën

Personal professor of Food Technology

‘Fresco has a broad perspective on what is going on in the outside world and she brings the sciences into that too. Not only does she engage in dialogue with society, but she also brings in the credibility of scientists and fosters confidence in science. As scientists, we need that to be able to play our role. In my work, public acceptance of new technologies is very important. It is my impression that the outside world has been more welcome in WUR since Fresco’s arrival. And that’s a good thing because we progress better and faster together with society.’

Hans Dagevos

Senior researcher at Wageningen Economic Research

‘I certainly don’t mind at all that she is staying and I hope she will go on doing her best to give the various views and disciplines in our organization a voice.

Nowadays we are officially a technical university, but the Social Sciences Group is not just a fifth wheel. I have noticed that Fresco makes a point of showing that. In the research world too, there is a growing realization that a future-proof world cannot be achieved with technology alone, but that we also need social change and a different pattern of consumption. This relates to Fresco’s interest in food culture and traditions. To me this is confirmation that she will carry on defending and preserving WUR’s breadth and diversity in the years to come.’

Bart Lagerwaard

Chair Wageningen PhD Council (WPC)

‘As a council we think Louise Fresco is doing great work to increase the visibility of WUR and stimulate social debate. It’s an honour to have such a nationally and internationally renowned figure as president of WUR. For the next term we hope that, as president of the board, she takes a clear stand on education as well. We are facing a large increase in student numbers, which has an impact on the teaching load of PhD candidates.’

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