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Food Safety

Trends in Harmonised Risk Indicators for the European Union

Commission publishes updated pesticide risk indicators for 2019

On 10 August 2021, the Commission published updated EU Harmonised Risk Indicators for pesticides for the period 2011-2019 for the EU. These indicators are important because they show the trends in the risks associated with the use of pesticides since 2011 under Directive 2009/128/EC.

Harmonised Risk Indicator 1 (HRI 1) measuring the use and risk of pesticides, shows a decrease of 21% since the baseline period in 2011-2013, and a 4% decline compared to 2018, which was unchanged compared to 2017.

Harmonised Risk Indicator 2 (HRI 2), which is based on the number of emergency authorisations, shows an increase of 55% since the baseline period in 2011-2013, but a 5% decrease compared to 2018.

There are two other notable positive trends in 2019:

- The continued, and accelerating, growth in the sales of pesticides containing non-chemical active substances (Categories A and C in Graph 4)

-  The notable decrease in the quantity of the more hazardous pesticides placed on the market (Group 3 in Graph 3).

These results show continuing progress in risk reduction, and support the achievement of the Farm to Fork pesticide reduction targets. However, there is no room for complacency if the European Union is to further reduce the risks associated with pesticides.

To this end, the Commission will continue to

  • ensure the full implementation of existing EU rules on pesticides by Member States (including launching infringement actions if necessary)
  • ensure that Member States undertake the necessary evaluations of the trends in Harmonised Risk Indicator 1 and 2
  • ensure that Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is fully implemented
  • ensure that, under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Member States Strategic Action Plans show a high level of ambition with regards to pesticides
  • carry out an evaluation and revision of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (Directive 2009/128/EC), including consideration of establishing mandatory national targets at Member State level

Background information

The Commission published Harmonised Risk Indicators (HRI 1 and 2) for the first time in 2019, for the period 2011-2017.

HRI 1 is based on data on pesticide sales reported to the Commission by Member States under Regulation (EC) No 1185/2009. HRI 2 is based on the number of emergency authorisations reported to the Commission by Member States using the Plant Protection Products Application Management System (PPPAMS). The indicators are calculated using the methodology laid down in Annex IV of Directive 2009/128/EC.

Member States are obliged to calculate and publish the trends in HRIs 1 and 2 for the 2011-2019 period by 30 August 2021, and to notify the Commission where this information is published. Details of the trends in HRI 1 and 2 for each Member State are available.

Graph 1. Harmonised Risk Indicator 1

Graph 1. Harmonised Risk Indicator 1

Harmonised Risk Indicator 1 is calculated by multiplying the quantities of active substances placed on the market in plant protection products by a weighting factor.

For practical purposes, active substances are grouped into four categories, in line with Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009. The weightings applied to each category are intended to reflect policy on the use of pesticides and to support the goal of the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive to reduce the risk and impact of pesticide use and promote alternative approaches or techniques.

A baseline of the average of three years 2011-2013 is used as the starting point against which subsequent values are compared.

Harmonised Risk Indicator 1 shows a 21% reduction in the risk to human health and the environment from pesticides in the European Union in the period from 2011 to 2019, and a 4% decline compared to 2018.

Graph 2. Harmonised Risk Indicator 2

Graph 2. Harmonised Risk Indicator 2

Harmonised Risk Indicator 2 is calculated by multiplying the number of emergency authorisations granted by Member States under Article 53 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 by a weighting factor. As with Harmonised Risk Indicator 1, active substances are grouped into four categories, and weightings applied to each category. A baseline of the average of three years 2011-2013 is used as the starting point against which subsequent values are compared.

Harmonised Risk Indicator 2 for the European Union shows a 55% increase in the period from 2011 to 2019, but a 5% decrease compared to 2018.

Emergency authorisations are granted for a wide range of reasons, including emerging plant health issues and minor uses, as defined by Article 3(26) of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, and reported to the Commission using the PPPAMS system. Since February 2020, the Commission publishes all notifications of emergency authorisations.

Up to this point, it has not been possible to establish a more sophisticated HRI 2 as only a limited number of Member States have recorded the scale of these authorisations. However, guidance on emergency authorisations was updated with effect from 1 March 2021, so that Member States are now required to report the area treated in each case. This data could be used to develop a more sophisticated version of HRI 2.

The Commission is concerned about the increasing number of emergency authorisations being granted by Member States, and the consequent trend in HRI 2, and is closely monitoring these authorisations. For example, the Commission has initiated action on emergency authorisations granted repeatedly by Member States for plant protection products containing neonicotinoid active substances. Further information on the steps taken by Commission can be found here.

In addition to the harmonised risk indicators for the EU, each Member State is obliged to calculate and publish the Harmonised Risk Indicators for their territory.

Trends in Sales

The two graphs below show the trends in the quantities of active substances contained in pesticides placed on the market for each Group and Category used in the calculation of Harmonised Risk Indicators.

Graph 3. Trend in Quantity of Active Substance contained in Pesticides placed on the market by Group

Graph 3. Trend in Quantity of Active Substance contained in Pesticides placed on the market by Group

Evolution of each of the 4 Groups, with a baseline of 100, average in 2011-2013

Evolution of each of the 4 Groups, with a baseline of 100, average in 2011-2013

Graph 4. Trend in Quantity of Active Substance contained in Pesticides placed on the market by Category

Graph 4. Trend in Quantity of Active Substance contained in Pesticides placed on the market by Category

Evolution of each of the 7 Categories, with a baseline of 100, average in 2011-2013

Evolution of each of the 7 Categories, with a baseline of 100, average in 2011-2013

All active substances placed on the market in plant protection products can be allocated to four groups:

  • Group 1 are low-risk active substances
  • Group 2 are all approved active substances, other than those in Groups 1 and 3
  • Group 3 are the more hazardous active substances (active substances that meet the cut-off criteria as set out in points 3.6.2. to 3.6.5 and 3.8.2 of Annex II to Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 or are identified as candidates for substitution in accordance with the criteria in point 4 of that Annex)
  • Group 4 are active substances that are not approved

These groups are further divided into categories:

  • Group 1 comprises micro-organisms (Category A) and chemical active substances (Category B)
  • Group 2 comprises micro-organisms (Category C) and chemical active substances (Category D)
  • Group 3 is divided into Categories E and F based on the classification of these active substances as regards their carcinogenic, repro-toxic and endocrine disrupting properties
  • Category G is identical to Group 4, and comprises active substances that are not approved

In all cases, the baseline value is 100, and is the average of the values for 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The most noteworthy trends in 2019 are the continued, and accelerating, growth in the sales of pesticides containing non-chemical active substances and the notable decrease in the quantity of the more hazardous pesticides placed on the market.