European Parliament
Texts Adopted by Parliament
Provisional Edition : 27/03/2003

Sustainable use of pesticides



European Parliament resolution: Towards a thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides (2002/2277(INI))

The European Parliament,

-       having regard to the Commission communication 'Towards a Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides' (COM(2002) 349 - C5-0621/2002),

-       having regard to the Commission communication 'Towards a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection' (COM(2002) 179),

-       having regard to Council Directive 91/414/EEC of 15 July 1991 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market(1),

-       having regard to the European Parliament and Council Directive 98/8/EC of 16 February 1998 concerning the placing of biocidal products on the market(2),

-       having regard to Council Directives 76/895/EEC(3), 86/362/EEC(4), 86/363/EEC(5)and 90/642/EEC(6)on the fixing of maximum levels for pesticide residues in and on fruit and vegetables, cereals and foodstuffs of animal origin,

-       having regard to European Parliament and Council Directive 2000/60/EC of 23 October 2000 establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy(7) and the water quality objectives laid down therein,

-       having regard to Council Directive 98/83/EC of 3 November 1998 on the quality of water intended for human consumption(8),

-       having regard to Council Directive 75/440/EEC of 16 June 1975 concerning the quality required of surface water intended for the abstraction of drinking water in the Member States(9),

-       having regard to the report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council entitled 'Evaluation of the active substances of plant protection products (submitted in accordance with Article 8(2) of Council Directive 91/414/EEC on the placing of plant production products on the market) (COM(2001) 444),

-       having regard to its resolution of 30 May 2002(10) on the Commission report on the evaluation of the active substances of plant protection products and to the Commission's reply to that resolution,

-       having regard to Decision No 1600/2002/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 July 2002 laying down the Sixth Community Environment Action Programme(11),

-       having regard to the resolution of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council of 1 February 1993 on a Community programme of policy and action in relation to the environment and sustainable development - A European Community Programme of Policy and Action in relation to the environment and sustainable development (The Fifth EC Environmental Action Programme)(12),

-       having regard to the Commission progress report on implementation of the European Community Programme of Policy and Action in relation to the environment and sustainable development 'towards sustainability' (COM(1995) 624),

-       having regard to Decision 2179/98/EC of the European Parliament and the Council of 24 September 1998 on the review of the European Community Programme of Policy and Action in relation to the environment and sustainable development 'Towards Sustainability'(13),

-       having regard to the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on environmental liability with regard to the prevention and remedying of environmental damage(14),

-       having regard to the synthesis report of the European Commission entitled 'Possibilities for future EU environmental policy on PPP's' (1997),

-       having regard to the Convention on the Protection of the Rhine and the provision made therein for safeguarding the use of water from the Rhine to supply drinking water,

-       having regard to the report of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and European Environment Agency (EEA) entitled ' Children's Health and Environment: A Review of Evidence' (2002),

-       having regard to Rules 47(2) and 163 of its Rules of Procedure,

-       having regard to the report of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy and the opinion of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (A5-0061/2003),

A.       whereas there is broad consensus that the existing legal framework does not provide for a sustainable use of pesticides and that it is therefore necessary to complement it by a comprehensive Community strategy explicitly designed to achieve this goal,

B.       whereas pesticides residues can be found in all habitats, residues in food are found in approximately 40% of the samples and multiple residues in 15%,

C.       whereas pesticide contamination of European groundwater, which represents 65% of Europeans' raw drinking water, is of particular concern,

D.       whereas the limit of 0.1 ėg/l for pesticides in drinking water which applies to groundwater and surface waters is frequently exceeded, giving rise to high treatment costs,

E.       whereas pesticides contribute to a loss of biodiversity and the possible effects of authorised pesticides on health include immunological effects, endocrine disrupting effects, neurotoxicological disorders and various types of cancer,

F.       whereas foetuses and children are both more vulnerable and more exposed to pesticides than adults; the current evaluation and Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) are probably inadequate to ensure the safety of this vulnerable group,

G.       whereas since 1996 there has been a general increase in the use of pesticides in the EU,

H.       whereas a reduction in the use of, and dependence on, pesticides is also necessary in order to minimise problems relating to pest resistance, secondary pest problems and the depletion of agricultural soils,

I.       whereas the adoption of alternative pest control methods and a reduction of farmers' dependence on pesticides, including organic farming, has proven to be economically profitable and agriculturally sustainable,

J.       whereas a sustainable use of pesticides is not likely to be achieved solely by encouraging the Member States and whereas there is a need to achieve a level playing field at a European level for all farmers and an equal level of health, environmental protection and food safety; the EU should therefore define comprehensive mandatory requirements in keeping with the general principle that European Union law should not weaken existing laws on environmental protection and, in this instance, taking into account the very different climatic conditions, crops, soil and other factors affecting agriculture, these mandatory requirements should take the form of minimum standards and should in no instance lead to an increase in the permissible levels of use of particular pesticides,

K.       whereas some Member States have effectively reduced the amounts of pesticides used and the risks associated with their use; whereas discrepancies between Member States still exist resulting in an non-level playing field and unfair competition between farmers in different Member States,

L.       whereas improved knowledge of the individual pesticide user is a prerequisite for changing behaviour and hence training, education and the dissemination of information should be a crucial element of the thematic strategy, and for the training of farmers and operators a comprehensive framework or guidelines are needed,

1.  Welcomes the overdue Communication (COM(2002) 349), but regrets the lack of ambition, the fact that few legally binding measures and no economic instruments are proposed and the lengthy timetable for adoption and implementation;

2.  Reaffirms the calls made in its abovementioned resolution of 30 May 2002 for the revision of pesticides legislation with a view to pesticide risk reduction; furthermore, stresses the need for urgent and mandatory complementary action on pesticide use reduction and therefore calls on the Commission to speed up the process of developing binding and effective measures, and to define clear goals and timetables for each Member State, taking into account reductions already achieved in some Member States since the implementation of their national reduction plans;

3.  Urges the Commission to extend the scope of the thematic strategy to non-agricultural pesticides and all user groups such as industry, local authorities, private households and to biocides, while adhering to the timetable foreseen for the adoption of the thematic strategy;

4.  Stresses the need for mandatory national use and risk reduction programmes, including quantitative reduction targets to be achieved by adopting a mix of mandatory and voluntary measures; these programmes should contain, among others, the following elements:

-       an assessment of the existing situation regarding pesticide use and impacts and the consequences of the implementation of various reduction scenarios, including cost-benefit analysis for scenarios which include evaluation of the external costs on a scientific basis;

-       national or regional action plans designed to reduce pesticide use, risks and dependence, including quantitative and qualitative goals derived from standards laid down in directives concerning the environment, water, drinking water and food safety, for all user groups such as agriculture, industry, local authorities, public services and households;

-       measures to raise awareness, including information campaigns, advisory services development, mandatory basic and continued training and certification of all professional users, advisory officers and dealers with particular emphasis on low-pesticide pest-control systems and non-chemical alternatives, and special information for private purchasers;

-       definition of Integrated Crop Management standards for each major crop by independent experts and expanded financial support for the development of various biological alternatives, the crops' own resistance and farming methods capable of minimising the use of pesticides; such measures to include risk avoidance technology and assessment;

-       mandatory requirements relating to technical equipment, preparation, storage and application as well as measures to control and monitor compliance with these requirements;

-       designation of pesticide vulnerable zones where use is banned or severely restricted such as drinking water collection or abstraction zones and areas protected under Directives 92/43/EEC(15) (Habitats Directive) and 79/409/EEC(16) (Birds Directive);

-       mandatory and frequent monitoring of pesticides concentrations in environmental media as well as of residues in food in a harmonised way;

-       regular progress reports by Member States on the implementation of the reduction programmes;

5.  Considers that national action plans must also cover:

-       licensing procedures for chemical soil decontamination,

-       the use and approval of spraying equipment,

-       crop protection licences,

-       in the case of sensitive crops, drift reduction measures,

-       disease prevention measures;

6.  Calls on the Commission to propose a legally binding EU-wide pesticides pass in which the producer indicates the use of all pesticides in agriculture and in the storage of each product, in order to enable appropriate food controls to be carried out; there must be provision for sanctions, should false or incomplete information be supplied;

7.  Fully supports the recommendation for a ban on aerial spraying and the possibility to designate pesticide free zones, but urges the Commission also to propose a ban on the use in special protection zones such as for drinking water abstraction, on the use of pesticides in schools, playgrounds and parks in order to protect children, and in areas close to inhabited zones; calls on the Commission to present such proposals before the end of 2003;

8.  Asks the Commission to establish a system of compulsory protection zones for all surface water at European level, whereas the protection zones should be adjusted at regional level in order to take into account the specific characteristics of the region and the potential risks;

9.  Demands that Member States improve the monitoring of pesticide concentrations in the various environmental media, including on food products, in accordance with Community guidelines; also asks for an approximation of information systems relating to contamination caused by pesticides; stresses the necessity to conduct further research on the environmental impacts and on the effects which pesticide use has on health;

10.  Urges the Commission to set up EU-wide databases containing all national monitoring data and all available non-chemical alternatives; these databases should be made accessible to the public and the information actively disseminated;

11.  Urges the Commission to expand financial support of research and promotion activities specifically intended to develop alternative pest control methods and systems;

12.  Notes that there exists a variety of indicators - including sales volumes, use volumes, use patterns, treatment frequency, residues in food and environmental media, the percentage of land in organic farming and the percentage of farmers adopting Integrated Crop Management (ICM) - which, if used in combination, are suitable for measuring progress and calls on the Commission to use those indicators while continuing to work on the development of agreed environmental load indicators;

13.  Stresses the need to collect, in a harmonised way, sales and use data for all user categories as well as import and export data, and to make publicly available all information for every active ingredient;

14.  Calls on the Commission to propose an increase in consumers' right to information, for example by setting up a system for the regular publication of residue measurements in fresh food products from supermarkets and other retail outlets, and by giving consumers the right to put questions to food producers and distributors concerning the composition and method of production of food;

15.  Stresses the need to introduce the concept of producer or importer responsibility for the recovery and safe disposal of all pesticide packaging, pesticides past their expiry date and revoked pesticide products by way of a mandatory deposit-refund system;

16.  Asks the Commission to address the specific problems arising from filling and cleaning as important point sources of emissions and to propose measures to collect and treat remaining pesticides; calls for particular attention to be paid to the use of pesticides in containers for the shipment of goods and the health and safety risk for those who treat, or are in the vicinity of, those containers;

17.  Calls on the Commission to draw up guidelines, for training and advisory purposes, for pesticide users as regards reducing the risks stemming from pesticide use, taking account of the differences which exist between the various European regions;

18.  Underlines that programmes for basic and further training should focus on risks for human health and the environment, alternative methods and safe and minimised use;

19.  Draws attention to the major importance, not least for sustainable use and risk reduction, of a speedy European evaluation of active substances in plant protection products; emphasises that this re-evaluation must take place within strict deadlines and that sufficient human and other resources must be allocated to the task;

20.  Emphasises once again the need to include, in the revision of Directive 91/414/EEC, the substitution principle, the precautionary principle and comparative assessment (including non-chemical alternatives), but notes that this principle should also be the basis for action at national level;

21.  Urges the Commission to coordinate the internal work on drawing up the proposals for a thematic strategy and an amended Directive 91/414/EEC; in particular, this applies to the need to remove the obstacles in the aforementioned Directive which hinder Member States from using bans or restrictions on individual plant protection products to achieve sustainable use and reduce dependence on chemical agents in food production; such restrictions must be dealt with directly in the proposal for a revision of the Directive in question;

22.  Urges the Commission to draw up a new policy for pesticides in line with the forthcoming EU chemicals policy on the basis of the principles advocated in the conclusions of the Environment Council of 7 and 8 June 2001, with particular focus on substances which are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction and substances which are persistent, bioaccumulating and toxic or which otherwise give cause for serious concern, particularly endocrine-disrupting substances and VPVB (very persistent, very bioaccumulating) substances; these substances should, in principle, be avoided in plant protection products; consistency between the revision of Regulation (EEC) No 2455/92(17) concerning certain dangerous chemicals and Directive 91/414/EEC should also be taken into account;

23.  Calls on the Commission to introduce measures to remove financial barriers in the approval and registration of new and alternative products such as biological control agents and organic products, without compromising safety;

24.  Emphasises that a variety of 'low risk' crop protection products should be available to prevent the development of pest resistance; stresses the need for preference to be given, whenever possible, to organic methods of pest control and to the use of sound farming practices (in particular crop rotation, weeding and a reduction in the amounts of pesticide applied), rather than to the systematic use of pesticides, and for products which are known to be hazardous to be replaced by more selective, less persistent and more biodegradable products;

25.  Considers an integrated crop protection policy to be an absolute necessity for the sustainable use of pesticides, and that to this end attention must be paid to:

-       safeguards by means of certification and by closing the crop protection circuit,

-       improving levels of knowledge about crop protection,

-       promoting innovation, as regards both agricultural and horticultural systems on the one hand, and the products used on the other;

26.  Urges the Commission to set concrete and mandatory targets and timetables for ICM and sustainable organic agriculture, while Integrated Pest Management (IPM) should be made mandatory for all public authorities; notes however that there is still a lack of consensus among stakeholders on the meaning of the terms 'Integrated Crop Management' and 'Integrated Pest Management' and insists that the Commission lay down clear definitions and minimum criteria in this respect and set deadlines for the mandatory application of ICM on all cultivated land, not yet in organic farming; asks Member States to lay down minimum IPM/ICM measures for each crop;

27.  Calls on the Commission to propose ICM/IPM as a common basic requirement for the licensing of any pesticide;

28.  Urges Member States to fully exploit the provisions laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1259/1999(18) on direct support schemes under the common agricultural policy and insists that financial incentives for conversion to low-input and organic agriculture should be strengthened;

29.  Requests the Commission to reform the Common Agricultural Policy in order to make it compatible with the goal of sustainable pesticide use and requests that ICM becomes a prerequisite for subsidies in the future;

30.  Recognises the potential for reducing pesticide use or promoting the use of more benign types of herbicides by introducing genetically modified plant varieties;

31.  Welcomes the proposed elimination of provisions allowing Member States to apply reduced VAT rates for pesticides;

32.  Calls on the Commission to develop an EU-wide fund financed by both Member States and industry in order to ensure a safe disposal of stocks of obsolete pesticides in candidate countries; requests the Commission to lead global action and enforce producer responsibility to prevent future stocks;

33.  Stresses that development aid should focus on capacity building within third countries and on minimisation of pesticide use, organic agriculture, ICM and IPM;

34.  Urges the Commission to set maximum residues levels (MRLs) extremely low (analytical detection limit) unless the notifier can prove that even the best available techniques and methods cannot prevent a certain residue level;

35.  Urges the Member States to measure residues in fresh food products in order to promote transparency and consumers' right to product information;

36.  Calls on the Commission to amend European trading standards relating to the shape, size and aesthetic qualities of fresh fruit and vegetables which encourage the intensive use of pesticides;

37.  Urges the Commission to take into account the extremely worrying issue of mortality amongst domestic bees - a problem associated with the use of certain systemic insecticides (containing the active substances Fipronil and Imidaclopride) in order to treat sunflower and maize seeds;

38.  Urges the Commission, therefore, as already requested in its abovementioned resolution of 30 May 2002, to ensure that the criteria for the assessment of pesticides specifically include an analysis of the impact which the active substances therein have on domestic bee populations, and the observations made by beekeepers' trade organisations concerning those substances;

39.  Urges the Commission to design its thematic strategy as an umbrella for existing and future legislation and to propose an effective and enforceable mix of instruments that complement and reinforce each other and, at the same time, put forward legislative proposals; requests that the Commission, in so doing, respect the principle whereby European Union law should not weaken existing environmental protection and, in this instance, to take into account the different climatic conditions, crops, soil and other factors affecting agriculture, and to ensure that any requirements take the form of minimum standards;

40.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1)      OJ L 230, 19.8.1991, p. 1.
(2)      OJ L 123, 24.4.1998, p. 1.
(3)     OJ L 340, 9.12.1976, p. 26.
(4)      OJ L 221, 7.8.1986, p. 37.
(5)      OJ L 221, 7.8.1986, p. 43.
(6)      OJ L 350, 14.12.1990, p. 71.
(7)      OJ L 327, 22.12.2000, p. 1.
(8)      OJ L 330, 5.12.1998, p. 32.
(9)      OJ L 194, 25.7.1975, p. 26.
(10)      P5_TA(2002) 0276.
(11)      OJ L 242, 10.9.2002, p. 1.
(12)      OJ C 138, 17.5.1993, p. 1.
(13)      OJ L 275, 10.10.1998, p. 1.
(14)      OJ C 151 E, 25.6.2002, p. 132.
(15) OJ L 206, 22.7.1992, p. 7.
(16) OJ L 103, 25.4.1979, p. 1.
(17)      OJ L 251, 29.8.1992, p. 13.
(18)      OJ L 160, 26.6.1999, p. 113.