Healthy food and the living environment, the domain of Wageningen University & Research, is highly topical. Now more than ever. Society is facing immense challenges with the climate, biodiversity, sustainability, water, food production and safe and healthy food. At the regional, national and international levels, these challenges demand responses and solutions that are based on sound scientific knowledge.
Wageningen University & Research’s work on the challenges and the knowledge required to tackle them is relevant for the policy domains of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature & Food Quality. It also touches on the policy domains of other ministries, such as Infrastructure & Water Management, Economic Affairs & Climate Policy, and Health, Welfare & Sport. Accordingly, WUR stands side by side with the Ministry of Agriculture and the other government departments in the search for solutions to the major issues facing society, a task it undertakes in partnership with the private sector and civil society organisations.
This KnowledgeBase Magazine highlights various basic knowledge research projects funded by the Ministry of Agriculture in the period 2019-2022. The scientists who are featured in the magazine explain how their research has helped get a better understanding of the issues confronting society and how to tackle them.
The articles show how closely interlinked the various challenges are and how the knowledge base for future policy therefore needs to be developed, built up and applied as a cohesive whole. Indeed, over the past four years WUR researchers have broadened their perspective and now increasingly develop knowledge in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams. Researchers are applying an integrated approach to food systems, for example, aiming to ensure the sustainable and fair production of nutritious, healthy food. Nor does that approach stop at the coastline.
An integrated approach also means the trade-offs in major transitions can be identified. The adverse impact on certain groups or sectors is no longer overlooked but instead made explicit and taken into account wherever possible. Researchers use case studies from the Netherlands and elsewhere to learn more about sustainable and fair transitions, and make sure this knowledge is available to the people involved in these crucial transitions.
Various knowledge-base projects focus on an optimistic future scenario or positive prospect for the near or distant future. That might be a spatial layout of the Netherlands a hundred years from now in which the country is greener and healthier yet still prosperous. Or it might be culturing organoids for food safety tests, eliminating the need for lab animals.
A fundamentally important aspect of this research is developing and updating methods, analyses and models that will make the search for solutions easier, more effective and more integrated. The latest computer models need to be able to cope with massive amounts of data, communicate with one another and visualise the outcomes. Only then will the research and knowledge remain relevant in the future for the innovations, policy and actions of public and private partners in the necessary transitions.
In the years ahead, Wageningen University & Research will continue to be a pioneer in the development of knowledge applicable to the challenges and transitions in the domain of healthy food and the living environment. The knowledge-base projects are an indispensable element of this. Together with ministries, civil society organisations and businesses, we are producing solutions for a sustainable future, both in the Netherlands and worldwide!
Prof. dr. ir. Arthur P.J. Mol
Rector magnificus Wageningen University & Research