Dutch Nitrogen Crisis
The bursting of the Dutch nitrogen crisis (DNC) catched the attention of the 2021 iGEM team of Wageningen University and Research (WUR). We made the decision of tackling the DNC and the associated societal and environmental crisis by developing a technology with the help of synthetic biology. This page complements the project Background page by providing a timeline of the measures that were put into place to prevent the environmental damage caused by nitrogen excess. The new policies had consequences on the society, especially on certain groups, such as cattle farmers. This explains why farmers were the ones mostly expressing their discontent through protests. With the project called Cattlelyst, the WUR iGEM team 2021 aims at providing technological support to the farmers, facilitating the process of complying with the regulations and helping them in reducing the environmental impact of their job without losing profit.
Awareness on the environmental damages caused by acid deposition led to new policies already back it 1980, but these were only effective for reducing sulphur oxide levels. The emissions of this gas have been reduced by 80% in the past 40 years, but the emissions of nitrogen compounds have only halved since 1990 and ammonia emissions have increased in recent years [1, 2].
The new measures have caused friction between the government and farmers. This was the last straw for many farmers that on the 1st of October gathered in a massive protest on the ‘Malieveld’ in Den Haag. Thousands of farmers went to the Dutch political capital in their tractors clogging the highways and many other strikes followed [7, 8].
In April 2020, the cabinet allocated €5 billion to new measures to solve the nitrogen crisis. The money was mostly meant for restoration of nature and to fund solutions to lower emissions at the source. A new long-term plan to lower nitrogen emissions was proposed in June 2020, which contained several more detailed recommendations. With this plan in place, a reduction of 26% of nitrogen emissions in 2030 would be achieved.
A perfect solution to the nitrogen crisis has not been found yet. Therefore, sustainable techniques that can be used in barns to reduce the nitrogen emissions can be subsidized within these new measures [4, 5]. Read more about the Cattlelyst approach and our results!Go to the Result page of Cattlelyst
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