Increasing discomfort over agri-influence at WUR

Protest to push WUR to sever ties with ‘big agro’.
Photo Sven Menschel

An increasing number of students and employees are concerned about the influence of ‘big agro on WUR. They believe that WUR should sever its ties with the sector and the fossil industry. To emphasise their opinion, they will protest on the campus on Thursday.

The protest was preceded by a recent gathering in Impulse, where various Wageningen protest groups explained to an audience of some one hundred employees and students why they deem it unacceptable for WUR to continue its partnerships with large corporates in the food and agro sector.

In the first place, due to a number of practices in the global agri-business, such as extensive deforestation for soy cultivation and land theft for oil palm plantations. These practices not only severely impact the climate and biodiversity but are accompanied by violence, child labour and other human rights violations. And those who protest risk their lives.

These malpractices are not distant; they also occur among WUR partners, say the protesters. Research site Follow The Money recently revealed how Upfield and FrieslandCampina, both with a foothold on the campus, continue to conduct business with dodgy palm oil producers under the veil of a web of complicated constructions. ‘I want nothing, I repeat: Nothing, to do with such companies’, a researcher firmly stated during the gathering in Impulse. ‘But WUR continues to facilitate them, and, in doing so, allows itself to be used for greenwashing to a certain extent.’

Research and education frame

Scientific integrity is the second reason to protest WUR’s links with the agri-business. ‘Their mere presence influences WUR’s research and education frame. It sets a standard for the issues we study, the research questions we pose, and the paradigms we use’, said a teacher in Impulse. ‘WUR can, and should, fight the status quo more than it does but is prevented from doing so by its ties with big agro.’

Photo Sven Menschel

Funeral procession

The protest on the campus on Thursday is a memorial for the victims of agri-business: the animal and plant species that have disappeared, and the human victims such as the murdered activists in Indonesia, Colombia and the Philippines. The protestors will form a funeral procession from Forum to the field next to Atlas/Orion. Their slogan, ‘Weeding out agribusiness @WUR’, calls for an independent WUR that focuses its efforts on a just agroecological food system. Various Wageningen (protest) groups support the demands:  Extinction Rebellion, End Fossil Occupy, Scientists4Future, Boerengroep, Degrowth and the Vegan Student Association.­

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