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Brussels, 4 July 2002

Pesticides: Commission to consult stakeholders on strategy to reduce risks

A new strategy aimed at reducing the impact of pesticides on the environment and on human health is set out in a communication adopted by the European Commission today. The strategy will aim to reduce the risks from pesticides to farmers, consumers, and the environment, whilst maintaining crop productivity. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said: "Pesticides pose a risk to human health and the environment. Recent events in Germany, where the banned carcinogenic herbicide Nitrofen was found in human food, remind us of this. We must make pesticide use sustainable. The Commission is working to make agricultural production less dependent on pesticides, especially the most hazardous ones, as alternatives do already exist."

The Communication, 'Towards a Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides', sets out its objectives as follows:

  • to minimise the hazards and risks to health and environment from the use of pesticides

  • to improve controls on the use and distribution of pesticides

  • to reduce the levels of harmful active substances, in particular by replacing the most dangerous by safer (including non-chemical) alternatives

  • to encourage the use of low-input or pesticide-free crop farming

  • to establish a transparent system for reporting and monitoring progress including the development of appropriate indicators

The Communication contains an analysis of the current regulatory situation in the European Union. It highlights the links with other EU policies and initiatives and it takes into consideration enlargement and the commitments of the Union at international level. This Communication also presents effective measures already put into practice by certain Member States and it suggests a number of possible measures which could become part of the thematic strategy.

Broad consultation

The purpose of the Communication is to launch a broad consultation involving all stakeholders such as farmers, NGOs, industry, other social partners and public authorities. All stakeholders, including the public, are invited to discuss and comment on the Communication before 30 November 2002. A stakeholder conference will also be organised in November in Brussels.

Following the consultation process, the Commission will develop the thematic strategy specifying the proposed measures in the course of 2003 and present it to Council and Parliament at the beginning of 2004. This thematic strategy was announced in the Sixth Environmental Action Programme.


The strategy will focus on pesticides that are used in plant protection products (PPP), in particular those used in agriculture. They have for a long time attracted special attention, because most of them are hazardous substances, which are deliberately released into the environment when used in agriculture. Another reason is that residues may remain in food for which safe levels have to be fixed. However, this is accepted as there are considerable benefits linked to their use in agricultural production.

Farmers and consumers will benefit from a more responsible use of PPPs. It will safeguard yields and increase the quality and safety of agricultural products. It will also ensure a reliable supply of produce.


Pesticides have been regulated for a long time in most Member States and by the European Union(1). Most of the relevant EU legislation has focused on the authorisation of substances for use in plant protection products before they are placed on the market to promote the approach of prevention at source. Legislation has also set out maximum residue levels in food and feedstuffs to control the 'end-of-life' stage.

The Communication presents the current situation in the EU and the Member States on the basis of the available preparatory work. This includes quantitative data on pesticide use, benefits, costs and risks associated with their use. Pesticide use has tended to increase in recent years. The European Union remains an important market for plant protection products (PPPs). In the EU approximately 320,000 tonnes of active substances are sold every year, which accounts for one quarter of the world market of PPPs.

Residue levels in food are monitored regularly by the Member States and, since 1996, in a co-ordinated EU programme. The most recent report by the European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office(2) showed that in about 4.5% of the samples maximum residue levels were exceeded.

There are numerous links between the thematic strategy on pesticides and other Community policies, such as the Common Agricultural Policy (especially agri-environmental measures), health and consumer protection, the future chemicals policy and other thematic strategies called for in the Sixth Environmental Action Programme (e.g. soil protection).

Information is available on the Internet at:

(1) Earliest Community Directives regulating plant protection products go back to 1979.

(2) Available at:

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