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June 2018

Improving authorisation processes for plant protection products in Europe

Existing European authorisation processes for plant protection products might be improved from a scientific perspective. Importantly, regulatory risk assessment must be fair, consistent, transparent, and communicated effectively so as to maintain public trust.

Producing enough food for the human population whilst also maintaining a clean and safe environment to ensure effective delivery of ecosystem services is a key challenge for humanity. The side effects of intensive agriculture, and particularly the use of plant protection products (PPPs), are often directly or indirectly harmful to human health and frequently affect common goods like clean water and air. Produce resulting from commercial agriculture is traded worldwide, exposing consumers to residues of pesticides that may have been applied half a world away. Recognising these cross-border threats to human and environmental health, the Member States of the European Union have relinquished national remits in the joint endeavour of creating a safer, cleaner, and healthier Europe: in the EU’s ‘dual system’ of pesticide authorisation, PPPs have to be authorised at EU level before Member States can authorise them at the national level.

To ensure that the legislation governing the EU’s PPP authorisation processes achieves its objectives and is efficient and effective, it is regularly evaluated and updated with the latest scientific findings and developments. SAPEA was asked to provide scientific input on how to make the EU’s current PPP authorisation processes more effective, efficient, and transparent.

The report examines the methods and procedures for assessing potential harmful effects on human health from the use of PPPs and suggests further improvement in:

  • The range and quality of scientific data that underpin risk assessments by collecting of more human-relevant data through use of newly emerging methods in toxicology, improving epidemiological surveillance for unanticipated adverse effects of approved PPPs and better modelling of potential exposures.
  • The methods by which data is analysed, including reassessment of the data required to evaluate toxicity and (re-)approve PPPs, surveillance of PPPs that are already on the market to detect unexpected toxicities, and more extensive and rigorous toxicology assessments of formulated products to account for additive or synergistic toxic effects of several substances in mixtures.
  • The ways in which assessment procedures are organised and tasks are allocated, through revision of how local and European authorities are coordinating their work, institution of formal mandatory training for staff undertaking risk assessments and creation of an independent, international centre for PPP-related research responsible for method development.

Scientific advice

Requested by

Delivery date

4 June 2018

Supports EU mission

A soil deal for Europe

Supports UN sustainable development goals

Good health and wellbeing
Responsible consumption and production
Life on land

The Group of Chief Scientific Advisors responds to the request for advice from the European Commission.

Their policy recommendations are based on the best available scientific evidence.

Plant protection products SO cover
Bibliographic information
Cite as
European Commission, Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, (2018). EU authorisation processes of plant protection products from a scientific point of view : Group of Chief Scientific Advisors : scientific opinion 5 (supported by SAPEA evidence review report No. 3) : Brussels, 4 June 2018, Publications Office.
The Scientific Opinion is written jointly by the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors. Former Advisors (‘alumni’) may also contribute.
Portrait of Janusz Bujnicki

Janusz Bujnicki

Portrait of Pearl Dykstra

Pearl Dykstra

Portrait of Elvira Fortunato

Elvira Fortunato

Portrait of Rolf-Dieter Heuer

Rolf-Dieter Heuer

Portrait of Carina Keskitalo

Carina Keskitalo

Portrait of Paul Nurse

Paul Nurse



4 June 2018
SAPEA provides evidence for the European Commission on authorisation of Plant Protection Products
SAPEA (Science Advice for Policy by European Academies) has published its third Evidence Review Report titled Improving authorisation processes for plant protection products in Europe: a scientific perspective on the assessment of potential risks to human health.
21 June 2017
New topic: Authorisation processes of plant protection products in Europe
SAPEA experts from across Europe are contributing their knowledge and expertise in this topic, in response a request from the College of European Commissioners.
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