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An Organic Resolution for a Healthy New Year

PHOTO: Experts say a New Year's resolution to go organic can be good for Illinoisans' health and the environment.
PHOTO: Experts say a New Year's resolution to go organic can be good for Illinoisans' health and the environment.
December 31, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The New Year provides a chance to begin a clean slate, and for Illinoisans that can mean a switch to a cleaner way of eating. According to the executive director of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Wes King, organic foods are better for personal health because they are produced without synthetic insecticides or fertilizers or antibiotics.

He said the negative effects of those chemicals are especially concerning for children.

"They may not have the built-up ability to process those chemicals as well as a full-grown adult, so it really impacts their development," he said. "So, more and more parents are looking out for the long-term health of their children and trying to reduce exposure to chemicals."

When you are in the store, King said, look for the USDA Organic label. He said that, despite what some critics say, it's a good indicator that you are purchasing food not made with chemicals or pesticides. Some experts say the most important items to purchase organic are potatoes, beef, dairy products, berries, apples, tomatoes and salad greens.

King said there are more and more organic producers in Illinois selling to the public, and it's easy to find them at local farmers' markets or community-supported-agriculture programs.

"You have an opportunity to ask the farmers themselves, and talk to them and say, 'Hey, what kind of methods do you use; are you using synthetic fertilizers; are you using pesticides?' That's the best way to know about the food you're getting, by talking to the farmer directly."

In addition to the health benefits of locally-produced organic foods, King said, there is also an economic boost when you support producers in your community.

"Buying that local, organic food, whether it's vegetables or meat or eggs: That money stays in Illinois, it stays in our communities, and there's just kind of a ripple effect of the economic benefits of buying local."

King said the environment also benefits from organic food production, and that organic-farming practices reduce pollution, conserve water and reduce soil erosion.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL