Help Print this page 

Summaries of EU Legislation

Title and reference
Thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides

Summaries of EU legislation: direct access to the main summaries page.

This summary is archived.
Languages and formats available
HTML html ES html DA html DE html EL html EN html FR html IT html NL html PT html FI html SV
Multilingual display
Miscellaneous information
  • Archived: true

Thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides

The European Union (EU) is putting in place a series of measures aiming to reduce risks to the environment and public health related to pesticide use, and, more generally, to attain a more sustainable use of pesticides and an overall significant reduction in risks and use, without financial losses being incurred by professional consumers. The proposed measures concern principally surveillance and research into pesticides, training and information from users, as well as on specific measures regarding their specific use.


Communication from the Commission of 12 July 2006 entitled: "A thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides" [COM(2006) 372 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Proposal for a European Parliament and Council Directive of 12 July 2006 implementing a Community Action Plan to achieve sustainable use of pesticides.


The thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides suggests measures to reduce the impact of pesticides * on human health and on the environment consistent with the necessary protection of crops.

At this stage, the strategy is only concerned with plant protection products *. It could be expanded to include biocidal products * at a later date, when sufficient knowledge and experience have been acquired in these areas, and if results show a need for such measures.

The strategy is aimed at fulfilling the following objectives:

  • minimising the hazards and risks to health and environment from the use of pesticides;
  • improving controls on the use and distribution of pesticides;
  • reducing the levels of harmful active substances, including through substituting safer alternatives for the most dangerous ones;
  • encouraging conversion to low-input or pesticide-free cultivation;
  • establishing a transparent system for reporting and monitoring progress.

The strategy comprises measures which will be implemented through existing legislative instruments and policies already in force as well as measures which cannot be integrated into existing instruments and which make up most of the subject matter of this proposal for a Directive.

Measures that can be integrated in existing instruments

Systems for monitoring compliance with the legal requirements concerning the distribution and use of plant protection products need to be improved, in particular through amendment of Directive 94/414/EEC concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market.

The requirement will be introduced for Community and national authorities responsible for authorising plant protection products to make a comparative assessment of such products before authorising them and, where possible, to substitute less harmful alternatives.

The annual monitoring programmes on residues of pesticides in food and feed under the 2005 Regulation (see "Related Acts") must be reinforced and complemented by epidemiological exposure studies.

The concentrations of pesticides in environmental compartments must be determined as a means to verify users' compliance with restrictions and label instructions and to check predictions made during risk assessments.

Research on pesticides should be improved, particularly within projects under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development, with emphasis on those aimed at developing alternatives to chemical pest control and studying the effects of pesticides on biodiversity.

Member States will also have to change the tax on pesticides: the Commission is inviting them to apply normal VAT rates to pesticides in order to reduce the appeal of cross-border trade in non-authorised products due to differences in price.

In the international arena, the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention and the Stockholm Convention, and promotion of the sustainable use of pesticides, should continue.

New measures which call for the additional legislative framework provided by this proposal for a Directive

The Member States must establish National Action Plans which set out objectives, measures and timetables for reducing hazards, risks and dependence on pesticides. Stakeholders should be able to participate in setting up and implementing the NAPs.

The proposal also advocates setting up training for professional pesticide users and distributors, and awareness raising for the general public. The training programmes must be certified and should cover the following subjects: the legislation currently in force; hazards and risks associated with pesticides, and how to identify and control them; procedures for preparing application equipment for work, and procedures for its operation and maintenance; emergency action in case of accident.

Pesticide application equipment used by professionals must be regularly inspected by bodies designated by the Member States. The following equipment is inspected: power transmission parts, pumps, agitation devices, barrels, measuring systems, control and regulation systems, pipes and hoses, filters, etc. A certificate is issued upon the successful completion of an inspection.

Harmonised standards must be drawn up for pesticide application equipment and accessories. During inspections, pesticide application equipment and accessories complying with these harmonised standards are presumed to comply with the essential health and safety and environmental requirements covered by those standards.

The proposal prohibits aerial spraying. Derogations are possible only where there are no viable alternatives or where aerial spraying offers health or environmental advantages compared to land-based application. If aerial spraying is authorised, appropriate notification and protection measures must be taken.

Specific measures to protect the aquatic environment are also provided for. Preference should be given to products that are the least harmful, the most efficient application techniques and low-drift application equipment, and buffer zones must be established adjacent to watercourses. In addition, other appropriate measures must be taken, in particular to ensure that application of pesticides is reduced as far as possible on areas likely to drain off into water supplies, such as on very permeable surfaces or, in contrast, on sealed surfaces with high risk of run-off into surface or ground water.

Moreover, the use of pesticides shall be prohibited or restricted to the minimum necessary in certain sensitive areas, i.e. the areas covered by the Birds and Habitats Directives and areas used by the general public or by sensitive population groups, at least in parks, public gardens, sports grounds, school grounds and playgrounds.

Furthermore, special measures must be introduced on the handling and storage of pesticides and their packaging and remnants with a view to preventing risks to the health or safety of humans and the environment.

The proposal also seeks to promote more environmentally-friendly, low-risk alternatives for pest management. Member States must put in place the necessary conditions for implementation of Integrated Pest Management , in such a way that the general standards become mandatory at the latest by 1 January 2014.

To allow effective risk assessment to take place, the Commission is to draw up harmonised risk indicators calculated on the basis of statistical data collected by the Member States.

Measures which require an extra legislative framework: forthcoming proposals

A proposal for a Regulation concerning statistics on plant protection products should be adopted by the Commission at the latest by the end of 2006. It is aimed at improving and standardising the gathering of data on the marketing and use of plant protection products in the various Member States. The data will be used in particular for calculating the risk indicators mentioned above.

Pesticide application equipment must conform to environmental standards before being placed on the market. A proposal for a Directive laying down essential environmental protection requirements for placing new pesticide application equipment and accessories on the market should be adopted by the Commission by 2008, possibly within the framework of Directive 2006/42/EC.

Measures which could be re-examined at a later stage

The Communication gives details of two additional types of measures, which will not be proposed as part of the thematic strategy at this stage, but which could be considered in future if the results of the proposed strategy suggest that they are necessary. They concern defining quantitative use-reduction targets and setting up a system of taxes/levies on pesticide use.


Pesticides are used in agriculture either to regulate plant growth on non-agricultural areas (plant protection products) or for other purposes (mainly biocidal products), and have the potential to kill or control harmful organisms. Pesticide use therefore has substantial economic and social advantages. However, exposing humans or the environment directly or indirectly to pesticides can have harmful effects, including chronic or long-term disorders, which are of particular concern in the case of children, the elderly or workers regularly exposed to these substances, as well as causing environmental degradation due to air, water or soil contamination.

This Strategy is one of the seven thematic strategies outlined in the Sixth Environment Action Programme adopted in 2002. It is based on a comprehensive study and widespread consultation of the general public and stakeholders.

Key terms used in the act

  • protect plants or plant products against all harmful organisms or prevent the action of such organisms, except if they are mainly designed for reasons of hygiene rather than protection of vegetables or vegetable products;
  • influence the life processes of plants, other than as a nutrient (e.g. plant growth regulators);
  • preserve plant products, in so far as such substances or products are not subject to Community provisions on preservatives;
  • destroy undesirable plants, or parts thereof, with the exception of algae;
  • check or prevent undesired growth of plants, except algae.

References and procedure


Official Journal


COM(2006) 373




Regulation (EC) No 396/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 February 2005 on maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin and amending Council Directive 91/414/EEC. The Regulation brings together and harmonises in one text the limits that apply to different human or animal food products and, in addition, it establishes a maximum limit applicable by default. All foodstuffs intended for human or animal consumption in the EU are now subject to a maximum residue level (MRL) of pesticides in their composition in order to protect animal and human health.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee - "The European Environment & Health Action Plan 2004-2010" COM(2004) 416 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

In order to improve the health of European citizens, it is necessary to know exactly what impact environmental damage has on their health. This action plan aims to provide the European Union (EU) with reliable information on this impact and to endorse better cooperation between stakeholders in the environment, health and research fields.

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee - Towards a thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides COM(2002) 349 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

The Commission is laying the foundations of a thematic Strategy to reduce the impacts of pesticides on human health and the environment, and more generally, to achieve a more sustainable use of pesticides as well as a significant overall reduction in risks and in the use of pesticides consistent with the necessary crop protection.

Council Directive 91/414/EEC of 15 July 1991 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market [Official Journal L 230 of 19.08.1991]. This directive harmonises the conditions and procedures for authorising plant protection products so as to protect human health and the environment. It also gives a list of authorised substances and a phased programme for evaluating substances already on the market.

Last updated: 27.11.2007