On Wednesday October 24th, the fifth of a series of jubilee alumni events took place, this time in Brussels. This alumni event is part of a series of alumni events being organized in the jubilee year of 95th Anniversary of Wageningen University. The event took place at the Thon Hotel and a small but enthusiastic group of alumni was present.
Martin Kropff, rector magnificus of Wageningen University, opened the event by giving an update on the current developments at Wageningen UR. Among other themes he spoke about our growth in MSc and PhD student numbers, and the development of Wageningen Campus.
The speakers of the afternoon talked more in-depth about the theme: Food security & Nutrition. A lively discussion, led by Robert van Gorcom, director of RIKILT, took place after the three presentations were given.
The first presentation was given by Prof Raoul Bino, Director Agrotechnology & Food Sciences Group of Wageningen UR, on the topic of Food Choices. In humans, the food choices made by consumers have a major effect on health and wellbeing, and the importance of a balanced diet is well-known. He gave an overview of the research done on this theme ranging from nutrigenomics to consumer behaviour in the Restaurant of the Future. His prediction was that there will be a trend toward more personalized food as well as a change of focus from food security to nutrition security.
Current and future challenges
The second presentation was given by Eric Poudelet, Director Safety of the Food Chain European Commission. His presentation on “Current and Future EU challenges” gave a clear overview of nine important factors that might contribute to or inhibit an increased food security in the European Union. Topics like cloning, food waste, novel foods, health claims, food fraud and nano technology in relation to food are currently being researched and debated. GMO for example is a promising technique to improve food security but although it is accepted for feed crops it isn’t accepted by consumers for food crops. Another example is the use of insects as a food ingredient. If insects are a novel food they have to be thoroughly tested before they are allowed in the EU. And in response to the fraud with horsemeat the EU is trying to take more preventive measures against food fraud instead of reactive measures.
Lastly, Herman Versteijlen, Director Agricultural Markets, European Commission, talked about “Competitiveness and sustainability for EU agriculture”. Enhanced competitiveness and improved sustainability being main drivers for EU food security. Long term graphs on the prize levels of milk, wheat and maize showed an increased competitiveness of EU farmers. Increased sustainability is realized through the reform of the CAP. There is a new focus on direct payments to farmers in exchange for public (green) services and specific objectives.
Afterwards, a lively discussion, led by Robert van Gorcom, director of RIKILT, mainly addressed the lack of acceptance of innovative food products by consumers. The evening continued with an informal reception together with the official EU guests of the Wageningen UR delegation of general managers. There was plenty of time to further discuss the topic of Food security & Nutrition, make new acquaintances or share memories of student life in Wageningen.