New Pesticides Directive

New EU legislation on the sustainable use of pesticides recently entered into force. The Pesticides Framework Directive 2009/128/EC, which became law in November 2009, aims to reduce the risks and impacts on human health and the environment related to the use of pesticides. The Directive also aims to promote the use of alternative pest management methods.


The EU’s 6th Environment Action Programme (Decision n° 1600/2002/EC) underlined the need to develop a Thematic Strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides. The Commission felt that this Thematic Strategy needed to be integrated with existing policies such as the Water Framework Directive 2000/60/EC and Directive 91/414/EEC concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market. The Commission also felt that to achieve this, a new legislative framework was needed. The Commission therefore put forward a proposal for a new Framework Directive on Pesticides in 2006.

The Framework Directive

The aim of the Directive is to ensure that Member States draw up plans to reduce the potential damage caused by pesticides. The Directive focuses on plant protection products. It instructs Member States to:

• Adopt National Action Plans (NAPs) aimed at reducing the risk from pesticides on human health and the environment
• Set up compulsory systems of training and education for distributors and professional users of pesticides
• Set up a framework for systematic equipment inspections
• Protect water supplies
• Examine alternative pest management methods
• Examine harmonised risk indicators

National Action Plans

The Directive requires Member States to set up National Action Plans to reduce the effects of pesticide use on health and the environment and to promote the use of alternative methods to reduce pressure from pests. The Directive states that the National Action Plans should contain quantitative objectives, targets, measures and timetables, and provide indicators to monitor the use of plant protection products containing active substances of particular concern. The action plans must be presented to the Commission by December 2012, and will be revised every five years.

Training and Education

The Directive also instructs Member States to set up training and certification schemes for all professional users of pesticides. These schemes should provide sufficient knowledge on good practices in the responsible use and management of pesticides, the risks associated with them and means of minimising the risks. Certifications would be delivered in particular to distributors. Member States must also ensure that sales distributors provide users with information about risks and safety instructions to manage those risks. The Directive states that they should also adopt necessary measures to inform the general public on health and environmental hazards relating to pesticide use and draw up awareness raising programmes on those dangers and possibilities of switching to non-chemical alternatives.

Equipment Inspections

The Directive also requires Member States to ensure that appropriate inspections of equipment are carried out. Inspections should guarantee that existing and new equipment are in a condition that prevents leakage and involuntary spread due to handling.  As a significant part of involuntary effects from pesticides is linked to handling, the equipment should have a proper performance, be filled an emptied safely without losses and allow thorough cleaning. Specific requirements for particular parts of equipment regarding inspections are laid out in the Annexes to the Directive. Member States shall also guarantee that handling, storage of pesticides and the treatment of packaging and remnants by professionals but also non-professional users don’t pose a threat to human health or the environment.

Water Protection

The Directive reinforces specific measures to protect the aquatic environment and drinking water laid out in the Water Framework Directive with specific requirements regarding pesticides. Measures adopted by Member States should promote the use of non hazardous pesticides, efficient application techniques and mitigation measures such as buffer zones between fields and surface waters, and safeguard zones for areas close to abstraction zones for drinking water. Pesticide use should also be prohibited or minimised in certain specific areas and accompanied with risk management measures. These areas include areas used by a large effective of general public (playgrounds, healthcare facilities, parks etc.), Natura 2000 nature conservation areas or areas defined as vulnerable (at risk of contaminating surface and groundwaters) in the Water framework Directive. 

Pest Management

The Directive requires Member States to promote the use of alternative pest management which give priority to non-chemical methods and practices with lowest risks to health and the environment in fighting against pests. These alternatives include organic farming and integrated pest management, which entails natural pest control mechanisms, following an approach based on the balance in agro-ecosystems and keeping the pesticide intervention levels as low as possible, occurring only when economically and ecologically justified.

Harmonised Risk Indicators

The Framework Directive provides that harmonised risk indicators shall be established at a later stage. These indicators are designed to be used by Member States to identify and analyse trends in the use of some substances that need particular attention. Member States may however use national indicators in addition to the harmonised ones.

Member States must adopt the measures set by the Directive and comply with its requirements by 14 December 2011. National Action Plans must be completed by 14 December 2012. The European Commission will submit regular reports to the European Parliament and the Council on progress made by countries in implementing the rules. The European Commission will review the effectiveness of the Directive in reducing the risks related to pesticides and reaching coherence between Member States in their sustainable use.