Chemicals play an important role in many facets of the food system – from cleaning equipment to targeting pests. Pesticides, solvents, plastics, and tires are just a few of the products that are widely used in the food system, but are potentially dangerous. Some of these materials are inherently toxic, while others can become toxic by improper disposal, such as through burning. The proper application, storage, and disposal of these materials is essential to protect human and environmental health, and the health of the food system. In some cases, less- and non-toxic alternatives exist. In other cases, more education about the proper use of chemicals, better compliance with existing regulations, and additional research is called for to understand and minimize unintended impacts from the use of these products.
The food system depends on natural and managed pollination for many of its crops, but pollinators are under stress from a variety of causes including pests, habitat loss, and pesticides. At the extreme, Colony Collapse Disorder1 poses a direct threat to a thriving pollinator population. While more research is needed to understand the various factors that are stressing pollinators, increasing and protecting pollinator habitats, and reducing pollinator exposure to pesticides is prudent. The Massachusetts Farm Bureau has brought together pollinator stakeholders to confront the threats facing both native and managed pollinators. The Pollinator Stewardship group is developing recommendations for an integrated approach to protect pollinators.