Pesticides are substances and products intended to influence fundamental processes in living organisms. They are used to kill or control harmful organisms such as weeds or insects vectors of disease. In Community legislation, pesticides have usually been divided into two major groups (plant protection products and biocides), although in international context (e.g. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)) the definition also includes certain medicinal products and veterinary medicinal products under the term "pesticides".
Plant protection products (PPPs) contribute to high agricultural yields and help to ensure that good quality food is available at reasonable prices. Biocides are e.g. important for public health protection and for preservation of materials. But at the same time, pesticides can have very negative effects on human health and the environment, which represent high costs for society.
Therefore, the European Community has developed a very comprehensive regulatory framework. Directive 91/414/EEC and Directive 98/8/EC lay down strict rules for the authorisation of plant protection products and biocidal products, respectively. These Directives require extensive risk assessments to be carried out, before PPPs and biocides can be placed on the market and used. Community rules also exist that define maximum residue limits (MRLs) for pesticides on food- and feedstuffs. Provisions for monitoring of pesticides in water are provided for in the Water Framework Directive.
As the current legislative framework mainly concentrates on the beginning and the end of life stages of pesticides, the Commission adopted in June 2006 the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides together with a proposal for a Framework Directive on the sustainable use of pesticides and a proposal for a Regulation on the placing of plant protection products on the market revising Directive 91/414/EEC. The aim of the Thematic Strategy is to fill the current legislative gap regarding the use-phase of pesticides at EU level through setting minimum rules for the use of pesticides in the Community, so as to reduce risks to human health and the environment from the use of pesticides. For the time being, Commission has proposed to restrict the scope of the Framework Directive to plant protection products. The intention is, however, to include biocides in the scope as soon as possible.
Discussions in the Council Agriculture Working Party and in the European Parliament (ENVI as lead Committee, with enhanced cooperation of AGRI Committee and opinion of ITRE Committee) are ongoing, in parallel with those on the proposal for a Regulation on the placing of PPPs on the market. Adoption can reasonably be expected in early 2009.