A new European Commission (EC) report has concluded that member states need to do more to use pesticides more sustainably and implement measures to reduce health risks to consumers.
The report on the sustainable use of pesticides directive adopted this week by the EC for the European Parliament and Council takes stock of progress made by the EU countries in applying measures to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticides.
It covers a wide range of topics such as aerial spraying, information to the public or training of professionals. The report indicates insufficient implementation of the directive on the sustainable use of pesticides.
"I know first-hand that citizens are concerned about the impact of the use of pesticides on their health and the environment," Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis said.
"We take these concerns into consideration and we are working with the Member States to achieve sustainable use of pesticides in the way we grow and produce our food.
"I will continue encouraging and supporting Member States in their task of implementing the measures to reduce risks derived from the use of pesticides".
While the directive offers the potential to greatly reduce the risks derived from pesticide use, the EC said these improvements were "limited and insufficient" to achieve the environmental and health improvements the directive was designed to achieve.
This is largely due to the implementation of the directive that remains patchy, it said.
Some key findings from the report include:
- Aerial spraying is banned in all EU countries, with exceptions granted only under strict conditions.
- Pesticide use is banned or minimised in public parks, sports grounds, hospitals and schools.
- Protection of aquatic environments or specific areas such as public parks is difficult to assess given the lack of measurable targets in most National Action Plans (NAPs).
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) remains underused by Member States. This is despite the fact that the number of EU-approved low risk/non-chemical pesticide substances has doubled since 2009. Compliance at individual grower level is not being systematically checked by Member States.
- Training and certification systems for professionals have been set up in all EU countries, and to date almost four million farmers have been trained to use pesticides safely. Furthermore, 900 000 sprayers have been tested for accurate and safe application.
What is next?
The EC that when revising their National Action plans, member states need to improve their quality - primarily by establishing specific and measurable targets and indicators for a long-term strategy for the reduction of risks and impacts from pesticide use.
"The Commission will continue to monitor and support implementation by the Member States to provide assurance that the objectives of the Directive are being achieved," it said.
"This monitoring includes a range of actions such as audits, the evaluation of revised NAPs and other follow-up activities – for example exchange of best practices and training of professionals. The Commission will also work with Member States to develop EU
"The Commission will also work with Member States to develop EU harmonised risk indicators, based on Member States' experience with their national indicators."
The EC recently launched a new website which contains links to member states' websites on sustainable use of pesticides, including Integrated Pest Management (IPM), with a view to facilitate the exchange of information between them and increase the flow of relevant information to farmers and the general public.