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The European environment – state and outlook 2010

The European environment – state and outlook 2010

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National and regional story (SOER 2010) - Reduction of the use of pesticides and biocides

Environmental programme on pesticides at the Belgian federal level+

Key message

A programme for the Reduction of Pesticides and Biocides (PRPB) was developed at Belgian federal level

The Programme for the Reduction of Pesticides and Biocides

Pesticides and biocides undeniably render the population a great service, as they make it possible to provide food that is free from toxins and pathogens which, in the past, caused so much damage. However, large-scale use of pesticides and biocides, together with exposure to a large number of potentially hazardous products is bound to be detrimental to human and environmental health. Therefore, it has become clear to everyone that, for safety's sake, both the professional and the non-professional use of these substances, and the associated risks, must be limited.

At European level, this need for precaution was discussed in the Sixth Framework Programme for the Environment, which was followed in 2006 by a strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides, and by a framework directive in 2009. At national level, the law of 1998 created the legal basis for the development of a policy of precaution in this field, and its implementation, even before the European initiative, namely in 2005 by means of a programme for reduction.


The creation of the PRPB

In Belgium, the law of 21 December 1998 on product standards to promote sustainable production and consumption patterns and to protect the environment and public health provides for a federal reduction programme which must be updated every two years.

The first reduction programme for plant protection products for agricultural use and biocides was launched on 22 February 2005. It covers the 2005-2010 period and was drawn up with the cooperation of all the players involved: the government at the various levels, the professional organisations for the protection of consumers and the environment, and so on.

The first update (2007-2008) takes stock of the first two years, specifies priority actions for the forthcoming period and contains a revision of the management structures for the programme. This update also fills in a few gaps in the original text, by defining priority axes.

From 2010 onwards, Belgium intends to continue its policy, with due regard for the European legislation (more specifically framework directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council for the sustainable use of pesticides) by implementing its National Allocation Plan following on from the PRPB.

The objectives of the PRPB

The overriding objective of the PRPB is to reduce the environmental impact of pesticides for agricultural use by 25 % in 2010, and to achieve a 50 % reduction in other sectors on which approved pesticides and permitted biocides have an impact.

This objective must be achieved through concrete actions which can be grouped together into three categories:

  • The development of instruments for evaluating the PRPB by means of risk indicators

  • The implementation of structural measures

  • Communication and awareness-raising (see link to communication tools under section ‘additional information’).

Risk assessment

Risk assessment is a major challenge in the field of biocides and pesticides, as those risks are complex and in constant evolution.

Until now, several assessment studies have been carried out, providing the following results:

  • Risk indicator PRIBEL has been developed for pesticides. PRIBEL reference values have been established for the years 1991, 1996 and 2001. Comparative values for 2010 will be available in 2011. A first estimation based on simplified risk indicators shows a general risk reduction since 2001, except for bees.

  • The BIBEL indicator for biocides is currently being developed.

  • Systems gathering data regarding pesticides sales and use are available or are being developed.

The key question is whether the risk can be measured. The answer to this question is important for the political decision: it allows us to judge whether a political answer, its cost and the resources used are justified. It also allows us to assess the costs of inaction with regard to public health.

Structural measures

Reducing the impact on the environment must be achieved through concrete actions leading to a large-scale behavioural shift, including with regard to eating habits, with an appropriate communication strategy. The actions that have been implemented are:

making a distinction between approvals, in order to make more suitable products available to amateur gardeners. Therefore, the administration has proposed making a distinction between approvals for products intended for professionals and approvals for products intended for amateur gardeners, a desire shared by the industry and ultimately included in the PRPB. The intention is that, by 2014, the sale of professional products will be totally separate from the sale of non-professional products, especially with regard to packaging (easier to use) and labelling (more readable). From 2011 onwards, products will be approved either for amateur use or for professional use;

supporting the placing on the market of biopesticides, which means pesticides to be used in biological agriculture which meet the norms imposed by European Directive EEC/2092/91. The federal authority facilitates marketing of these products by supporting the approval procedures;

introducing a system of certificates for the professional use of plant protection products. These certificates will be drawn up in order to comply with the provisions of framework directive 2009/128/EC.

Additional information 

  • the database containing information on authorized (farming) pesticides in Belgium. The information available on this website should be seen by the user as a means to make an informed choice between a large number of plant protection products approved in Belgium.