What is a Pesticide?
A 'pesticide' is something that prevents, destroys, or controls a harmful organism ('pest') or disease, or protects plants or plant products during production, storage and transport.
The term includes, amongst others: herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, acaricides, nematicides, molluscicides, rodenticides, growth regulators, repellents, rodenticides and biocides.
What is a Plant Protection Product?
Plant protection products are 'pesticides' that protect crops or desirable or useful plants.
They are primarily used in the agricultural sector but also in forestry, horticulture, amenity areas and in home gardens.
They contain at least one active substance and have one of the following functions:
- protect plants or plant products against pests/diseases, before or after harvest
- influence the life processes of plants (such as substances influencing their growth, excluding nutrients)
- preserve plant products
- destroy or prevent growth of undesired plants or parts of plants
They may also contain other components including safeners and synergists.
EU countries authorise plant protection products on their territory and ensure compliance with EU rules.
What is an active substance?
An active substance is any chemical, plant extract, pheromone or micro-organism (including viruses), that has action against 'pests' or on plants, parts of plants or plant products.
Before an active substance can be used within a plant protection product in the EU, it must be approved by the European Commission.
Substances undergo an intensive evaluation and peer-review by Member States and the European Food Safety Authority before a decision can be made on approval. See our Approval of active substances page for further information.
What is the difference between pesticides and plant protection products?
The most common use of pesticides is in the form of plant protection products (PPPs).
The term 'pesticide' is often used interchangeably with 'plant protection product', however, pesticide is a broader term that also covers non plant/crop uses, for example biocides.
This area of the Europa website contains information about plant protection products and the active substances contained in these.
If you require information on Biocides, please refer to our Public Health website.