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Brussels/Luxembourg , 26 April 2004

Pesticides: Byrne welcomes Council support on establishing common maximum residue levels

Today the Agriculture Council reached political agreement on a Regulation proposed last year by the European Commission, aiming to harmonise at the European level the maximum residue levels (MRLs) of pesticides permitted in products of plant and animal origin.

David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, welcomed the Council's political agreement. He said, "Establishing a unified approach at EU-level to pesticide residues will provide significant protection for consumers across Europe. Having the same MRL across the EU can boost consumer confidence by making it clear that for example apples from another country will not have higher levels of pesticide residues than the well known national apples."

The consequence of the Regulation entering into force will be that all MRLs for plant protection products (pesticides) will become harmonised after a transitional 'phase-in' period, and will in future only be set at the European level. It removes all trade inconsistencies that result from the current situation whereby Member States can set their own national MRLs in the absence of EU-wide (Community) MRLs.

In addition to consolidating and simplifying existing legislation, a primary objective of the Regulation is to define the roles of the different actors in the process of setting MRLs. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will be responsible for risk assessment, while the Commission will provide risk management by setting the MRLs, taking EFSA's opinions into consideration.

The Commission already has an active annual programme of residues monitoring in place, which will be able to feed EFSA with additional data for risk assessment.

What are MRLs?

A MRL is the upper legal limit of a pesticide residue to be found on a food or feed commodity. It is not a toxicological limit and a violation is not necessarily a cause of concern for public or animal health. For pesticides authorized for agricultural use, the MRLs are set at the maximum safe level that one would expect if the pesticide is used according to the rules and restrictions specified in the authorisation.

More information can be found at:

Next steps

The Regulation will now go to the European Parliament for a second reading with a view to allow the Regulation to enter into force in 2005.

The proposed Regulation replaces and simplifies the four existing basic Council Directives on pesticide residues, namely Directives 76/895/EEC, 86/362/EEC, 86/363/EEC and 90/642/EEC.

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