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Brussels, 12 July 2006

Commission proposes strategy on safer use of pesticides

The use of pesticides is recognised as posing threats both to human health and the environment. In order to address these concerns, the European Commission has today adopted a new strategy aimed at improving the way pesticides are used across the EU. It complements existing EU legislation controlling which pesticides can actually be placed on the market. The strategy foresees measures such as national action plans, training for professional users and distributors, certification and control of application equipment, protection of the aquatic environment, and restricting or banning the use of pesticides in specific areas. Aerial spraying is banned except for strictly defined cases.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “Ensuring that the use of pesticides does not endanger public health or the environment is a fundamental obligation for the EU. We want to ensure that citizens today and in the future do not have their health endangered by the use of pesticides, and can benefit from a safe, clean and rich environment”.

Pesticides are employed on a large scale and generally considered as essential in modern cropping systems because of the direct benefits – mostly economic - that their use generates, in particular for farmers. The placing of pesticides on the market is comprehensively regulated[1].

Yet, misuse (including overuse) of pesticides may damage water, air and soil and eventually endanger the health of pesticide users, bystanders, residents and consumers. They can cause acute, chronic or long-term health impairment, depending on the level and duration of exposure. Environmental pollution by pesticides may also provoke adverse effects on plants and wildlife, and more generally losses of biodiversity.

Several Member States have already started implementing measures to reduce the risks from pesticide use but the overall picture is very mixed. Unwanted amounts of certain pesticides are regularly found in environmental media (in particular water) and residues exceeding regulatory limits are sometimes found in agricultural food and feed. Therefore, there is a need for harmonised rules to ensure a level playing field in the EU.

New legislation proposed

The strategy is set out in a Communication, accompanied by a proposal for a Framework Directive which sets out common objectives and requirements while allowing for flexibility according to the geographic, agricultural and climatic situation of each Member State.

Together with the strategy, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation revising the 1991 Directive on the placing of plant protection products on the market (link to IP from SANCO).

In addition, the strategy contains two other new legislative proposals that will be adopted in the near future:

  • Essential requirements for the protection of the environment to be satisfied by new pesticide application equipment to be placed on the market.,
  • a new Regulation concerning statistics on plant protection products.

The strategy will stimulate research and innovation for the development and use of more effective and safer substances and crop protection services. It will promote the use of alternative plant protection methods with lesser impact on health and the environment. This will mean a market opportunity for the most innovative companies developing chemical and non-chemical plant protection products. It will raise public awareness, and ensure public participation in the preparation and review of the National Action Plans set up by the Member States. Data collection will be enhanced to establish European indicators to measure risk reduction of pesticide use. Finally, it will encourage a move to a new generation of environment friendly farming practices, thus helping to modernise the farming sector.

For the time being, the strategy only deals with the largest group of pesticides – plant protection products (PPPs). At a second stage, its scope may be extended to biocides once the impacts of the 1998 Directive on biocidal products[2] have been evaluated. Biocides, e.g. disinfectants, wood preservatives and antifouling paints, are used to control other harmful organisms than those damaging crops or controlling plants.

The Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides is one of the seven Thematic Strategies that the Commission is presenting, following the provisions of the EU's 6th Environmental Action Programme. The other strategies cover air pollution, marine environment, waste prevention and recycling, natural resources, the urban environment and soils.
Full details of the Strategy are available at:

A video news release on the Strategy is available to television stations and networks; it can be viewed and ordered at

See also MEMO/06/278 for additional details.

[1] Mainly through the new Regulation amending Directive 91/414/EECon the placing of plant protection products on the market which the Commission also adopted.
[2] Directive 98/8/EC on the placing on the market of biocidal products was adopted in 1998.

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