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06, Jun, 2014

Organic course cuts are a move in the wrong direction


Category: Soil & Health Association of NZ


The cutting of organic courses at Lincoln University is short-sighted and a move in the wrong direction, according to the Soil & Health Association. As part of a number of course and staff cuts at Lincoln University, three organic courses are to be dropped, and one full-time senior lecturer position will be disestablished.

“Our members, and people the world over, are seeking out healthy, GE-free and organic food,” said Marion Thomson, co-chair of Soil & Health. “Markets for organic products are increasing, so we need more education about organic systems, not less.”

“A thriving organic sector with a sound educational base will benefit New Zealand’s economy, environment, and our health, as well as mitigating climate change. It will also provide sustainable technologies that can be adopted by the agriculture industry as a whole,” she said.

In its submission to Lincoln University last month, Soil & Health strongly supported retaining the courses, and encouraged the university to show leadership for the future of sustainable, organic production in New Zealand, and to market these courses as a point of difference.

“We appreciate the tough economic realities that tertiary education providers are facing,” Thomson said. “Soil & Health would like to see significant investment by the government in sustainable, organic farming, and also in education to support it. It makes no sense to keep backing intensive, industralised farming and genetic engineering when people want safe organic food and a clean environment.”

Organic education is needed for those working in all areas of the organic sector, including primary production, processing, marketing and distribution, science and research, consulting, certification and policy.

Of the 74 submissions to Lincoln on the organic courses, 72 were in favour of retaining the courses, and two opposed. Student feedback about the courses has been overwhelmingly positive, and enrolment numbers have increased in recent years.