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IP/09/402

Brussels, 12 March 2009

Commission completes pesticide review programme – an important step to ensure the protection of health and environment

The European Commission made today an important step forward in its efforts to ensure improved protection of human health and the environment, as it completed the review of existing pesticides that were on the market before 1993. This programme concerned about 1,000 substances, of which about 250 have passed the harmonised EU safety assessment. All reviewed pesticides have undergone a detailed risk evaluation with respect to their effects on humans and on the environment. This important achievement is the result of a considerable joint effort by the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Member States.

EU Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said: “Today represents a milestone in our effort to ensure improved protection of human health and the environment. The review of existing pesticides has lead to the removal from the market of more than two thirds of these substances. I can now say with confidence that our food has become greener."

The need to review

As laid down in Directive 91/414/EEC, in 1993 the European Commission launched the work programme on the Community-wide review for all active substances used in plant protection products within the European Union. In this review process, each substance had to be evaluated as to whether it could be used safely with respect to human health (consumers, farmers, local residents and passers-by) and the environment, in particular groundwater and non-target organisms, such as birds, mammals, earthworms, bees.

There were about 1,000 active substances (and tens of thousands of products containing them) on the market at the time the Directive was adopted.

Safety first

Council Directive 91/414/EEC lays down a comprehensive risk assessment and authorisation procedure for active substances and products containing these substances. Each active substance has to be proven safe in terms of human health, including residues in the food chain, animal health and the environment, in order to be allowed to be marketed. If the evaluation carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) shows that the substance has no harmful effect on human or animal health and that it has no unacceptable impact on the environment, the substance can be approved.

The European Commission has created an EU list of approved active substances and Member States may authorise only plant protection products, containing such substances, which are included in this list.

Friendlier to Health and Environment

This review provides assurances that the substances currently on the market are acceptable to human health and the environment and are in accordance with European-wide criteria. Until this review was finalised, the level of protection could vary widely and national rules on substances could continue to apply.

Of some 1,000 active substances on the market in at least one Member State before 1993, 26%, corresponding to about 250 substances, have passed the harmonised EU safety assessment. The majority of substances (67%) have been eliminated because dossiers were either not submitted, or were incomplete or were withdrawn by the industry. About 70 substances failed the review and have been removed from the market, because the evaluation carried out did not show safe use with respect to human health and the environment.

Database of approved pesticides

As from 16 March 2009, a database on active substances will be available on the website of the European Commission. This newly developed database will be freely and easily accessible by every citizen. The aim is to guarantee transparent and up-to-date information on the EU pesticide legislation.

To access the database, please visit:

http://ec.europa.eu/sanco_pesticides/public/index.cfm

For more information, please visit:

http://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/protection/evaluation/index_en.htm


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