Farmers might use pesticides to protect their plants or plant products against pests, with the aim of ensuring that quality products are available to consumers at a reasonable price. At the European Union level, the principle aim is to ensure that pesticides are used correctly to minimise health or environmental risks. Organic farmers are subject to even stricter rules regarding pesticides.
Pesticides fight crop pests and reduce competition from weeds, thus improving yields and protecting the availability, quality, reliability and price of produce to the benefit of farmers and consumers.
Correct use of pesticides crucial for health and environment
Improper use of pesticides might involve risks to health and environment. This is why the common agricultural policy promotes the sustainable use of plant protection products in a variety of ways:
- most direct payments to farmers are no longer linked to production, reducing the incentive to produce more than is needed and to intensify the use of pesticides
- ‘green’ direct payments are given to farmers for agricultural practices that are beneficial for the climate and the environment
- under so called cross-compliance rules, farmers can lose part of their payments if they do not respect the requirements of EU law related to environment, climate change, the good agricultural condition of land, human, animal & plant health standards and animal welfare. This includes the conditions for use of pesticides
- in the specific case of fruits and vegetables, at least 10% of spending in the operational programmes must be on environmental actions that go beyond mandatory environmental standards
- agri-environmental measures are designed to reduce the risks of environmental degradation and enhance the sustainability of agro-ecosystems
- farm advisory systems have to inform farmers about conditions under cross-compliance, green direct payments, issues related to the water framework directive and the sustainable use of pesticides directive, etc. (More on implementing the sustainable use of pesticides directive and implementing the water framework directive)
Chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, antibiotics and other substances are severely restricted when it comes to organic farming.
The EU does not just control the use of pesticides in agriculture. It has also set requirements on placing plant production products on the market and on biocidal products, as well as fixing maximum residue levels in food.