THE SILENT TAKEOVER: Dutch Wageningen University moves on to sell their independence to industry

Brussels

Today an employee of German chemical multinational BASF, Mr. Bernhard van Ravenzwaay, will officially get a professor seat at Dutch agricultural university of Wageningen [1] in exchange for BASF-funding. Since he joined BASF, Mr. Van Ravenzwaay has a track record of studies published with a favorable outcome for industry. By acquiring a professor seat in university, BASF might try to buy credibility for the views of industry, esp. cost reduction by substituting animal testing by statistics such as TTC [2]. Similar ’unhealthy relations’ have been seen with a range of joint programmes with industry at Wageningen University such as ’Green genetics’ (Bayer, Syngenta [3]), with another  group of Wageningen University (Alterra) where researchers (Theo Brock, Paul van den Brink) showed pesticide industry ways to relax water standards and Bayer and Syngenta partly paid for a professor chair at Wageningen for Paul van den Brink in 2008 [4]. University employee Blacquière was supported by Bayer and Syngenta [5] and (now) being one of their supporters claiming the -just banned- neonicotinoids are not harming bees. Toxicology professor Yvonne Rietjens is another example of someone having close ties to industry [6] like Nestle and BASF. Not coincidentally several of these Wageningen university people (Brock, Rietjens, van den Brink) act in international institutes such as EFSA and SETAC to sell their ideas.

Mr. Van Ravenzwaay, after being an employee of the German cancer institute, started his career at BASF in the mid 90s. Reading his published studies [7] it is clear that the outcomes of his studies since that time are in favor of industry and have a certain spin towards industry agenda. In his studies on the BASF-herbicide MCPA he argues that safe use is possible. Van Ravenzwaay also published a study on the BASF fungicide Vinclozolin [8], saying it is safe at low dose, while EU banned the substance in 2006 because of severe reprotoxic effects over several generations. More recently Van Ravenzwaay started defending  industry-babies such as TTC (Threshold of Toxicological Concern [9]), substituting (expensive) experimental studies by calculations, exacty the topic of his professor seat in Wageningen university. 

Hans Muilerman, PAN Europe Chemicals Officer, comments: „The cases at Wageningen university are an example of a general development of university independance getting victim of company control. In less and less places in the world a real independent scientific opinion will be heard. In the end only those with huge resources such as chemical industry will dictate the scientific outcome and the ’truth’. Universities are forced by governments to get their money from the market and in doing so they cannot afford anymore to be independent. A critical view on a pesticide will harm their chances of getting money from pesticide industry.  We see the same in agencies such as EFSA who are less and less able to recruite independent scientists. Governments should stop forcing universities to get their money from the market.  Every link to industry is the end to independance”, Muilerman concludes.

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Further information

1. Seat on „Innovative approaches to reduce animal testing”, http://www.wageningenur.nl/nl/agenda-wageningen-ur.htm

4. Vrij Nederland, NL magazine, 28-11-12.

5. Vrij Nederland, NL magazine, 28-11-12

7. 48 studies are shown on  on-line search machine ‘Science Direct’.

8. J. Hellwig, B. van Ravenzwaay, M. Mayer, and C. Gembardt, Pre- and Postnatal Oral Toxicity of Vinclozolin in Wistar and Long–Evans Rats, Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 32, 42–50 (2000)

9. B. van Ravenzwaay,  M. Dammann, R. Buesen, B. Flick, S. Schneider, The threshold of toxicological concern for prenatal developmental toxicity in rabbits and comparison to TTC values in rats,  Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology 64 (2012) 1–8

For further information please contact:

Hans Muilerman, Tel: +316 55807255, hans [at] pan-europe.info

© PAN Europe, Rue de la Pacification 67, 1000, Brussels, Belgium, Tel. +32 2 318 62 55

PAN Europe gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the European Union, European Commission, DG Environment, Life+ programme. Sole responsibility for this publication lies with the authors and the funders are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.