Archive:Pesticide statistics background

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The risk to humans and the environment caused by the use of pesticides will soon be closely monitored in the European Union (EU). It’s a decision welcomed by many but the practical implementation will be a challenge for statisticians in this field. They must replace current statistics, mainly pesticide sales data, with a new set of agri-environmental risk indicators.


For decades Eurostat has produced statistics on pesticides that to a large extent are based on sales data for the main types of pesticides. These data have given a rough indication of the aggregated use of pesticides, but they are not particularly useful for monitoring the risk for individuals or the environment in a particular geographical area. For this reason there is a need of new, detailed information on where the pesticides were used, on which crops and what active substances were in use.

Legislation on pesticides

For several years the European Union has had an ambition to reduce the impact of pesticides on human health and environment. But the legislation has mainly concentrated on pesticides’ start and end-of-life phases, for example on the authorisation for placing pesticides on the market and control of their residues in food and foodstuffs.

The situation changed with the adoption, in 2009, of the legal ‘pesticide package’. It includes a framework Directive on sustainable use of pesticides that sets out obligations for the Member States to identify crops or areas most at risk from pesticides and to set up buff er zones to separate the usage or storage of pesticides from rivers, lakes and waterways. The pesticide package also contains a Regulation on pesticide statistics. The new legislative framework with a focus on the sustainable use of pesticides is a useful complement to already existing legislation in this field. A new collection of comparable pesticide-use data and development of harmonised indicators that can properly monitor the risk to nature and humans in all EU Member States is needed.

Collecting the data that determine the amount of pesticides that end up in the environment as residual pesticides is necessary in order to develop harmonised indicators that can monitor the risk related to pesticide use.

From national surveys to harmonised risk indicators

The potential impact of pesticides on human health and the environment depends on several factors such as the kind of pesticide used, the targeted crop and the concentration of the active substance. These components of pesticide statistics have to be combined with information on soil types and weather conditions as well as statistics on crop distribution. Pesticide-use data are not yet collected in the EU or at least not collected in a harmonised or comparable way. But Eurostat and the national statistical institutes have already started to work on a common methodology for the collection of these statistics which eventually will facilitate the production of harmonised national surveys on pesticide use.

To control the result of the surveys, the amount of pesticides the farmers say they use will be cross-checked against data on pesticide sales to make sure they are consistent. Sales data can also be used to complete time series, since they are easier and cheaper to get than using data which will only be available every five years. The information on pesticide use in different Member States should be developed into risk indicators that make it possible to compare the risk to humans and the environment as well as the development of this risk over time.

Finally, these new statistics will be developed into risk indicators which monitor the proper risk related to pesticide usage and help to identify areas where the environmental and health risks are particularly high. They should provide a useful input for policymaking on environment protection and health-related issues.

See also

Further Eurostat information


Dedicated section

External links