Southern Cross University offers new course in organics

Monday, 13 July, 2020

Southern Cross University offers new course in organics

A new university course offered by Southern Cross University’s National Centre for Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM) will help further Australia’s commitment to the rapidly growing sector, particularly when it comes to organic agriculture, according to Australian Organic. The eight-month, part-time Graduate Certificate in Organic Food and Nutrition is solely dedicated to organic education. The course will develop students’ knowledge and practice in organic farming, sustainable and ethical food systems, the produce journey, and connection between organic food and health.

Niki Ford, CEO of Australian Organic, said the course was a welcome development, and believes it will pave the way for new research and diverse opportunities.

“It is quite exciting that people can now study a Graduate Certificate in Organic Food and Nutrition at a formal level. Such a qualification is an enormous signal of the progress the organic industry has made over the past many years,” said Ford.

The course has been 12 months in development by the NCNM. The NCNM offers postgraduate pathways in naturopathy and is committed to elevating industry standards and finding solutions to Australia’s growing healthcare needs. Units offered include Organic Food Systems, Farm Gate to Plate: Producing Food for Health, Dirt to Dinner: The Principles of Organics, and Food as Medicine.

Professor Jon Wardle, Director of the NCNM, said the university is still accepting applications and is anticipating a good response to the course. Dr Wardle believes there has been little investment to date to support those working in the organics industry to deliver a critical and evidence-based understanding of organic principles and practicalities.

“The Graduate Certificate was developed to address this need. As people become more actively involved in their health management, they’re becoming increasingly interested in ensuring their food is sustainably and ethically grown for optimal health benefit,” said Dr Wardle.

The qualifications can be used in professions such as organic food production, health education and practice, and in policy at government levels. It also provides a pathway for further study at a Masters or Doctoral level. Academic Dr Liza Oates will head up the Food as Medicine unit, which explores the links between food and health, and how food can play an important role in contemporary medicine. Dr Oates, who has been a naturopathic practitioner for 20 years, said the use of food for the treatment, management and prevention of disease is something that will grow in importance over the coming decades and needs more clarity.

“There needs to be more education around recommending foods that on the one hand promote health, but on the other contain substances that may potentially compromise it. This was the impetus for my PhD research, which investigated the health and wellness effects of organic diets, and it is the reason there is a strong emphasis on the importance of organic produce in this unit,” said Dr Oates.

Dr Oates states that although using food as medicine has existed in traditional systems of medicine for thousands of years, the therapeutic benefits of foods were based more on beliefs than scientific evidence until recently.

“Food as medicine is about more than just what constitutes a healthy diet. It’s about treating holistically and individualising dietary recommendations so they align with the person’s values, culture and lifestyle. It aims to minimise harm and recognises food choices not only affect your health but also have ethical, social, economic and environmental effects on the wider community,” said Dr Oates.

Australian demand and exports regarding certified organic products are rising, with the Australian Organic Market Report 2019 revealing that the domestic market is worth $1.93 billion, while Australia exported 30,155 tonnes of organic produce and products to 61 countries. Recent reports from IBISWorld also predict that Australia’s organic farming industry will grow at roughly 15% per annum over the next five years and will become a $3.7 billion industry by 2024–25, with rising health consciousness and environmental awareness increasing demand.

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