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Policy context and targets

The Water Framework Directive (WFD) and its daughter directives on environmental quality standards in water policy, as amended in 2013, and quality standards for groundwater set quality objectives and targets for pesticides in surface waters and groundwater and should protect water quality from pesticide pollution.

According to the WFD, pesticide concentrations above critical threshold levels lead to surface waters failing to achieve ‘good chemical status’, based on pesticides listed as priority substances, and ‘good ecological status’, based on pesticides listed as river basin-specific pollutants. The WFD also lists pesticides that are groundwater pollutants to assess the chemical status of groundwaters. For each pesticide, a quality standard of 0.1 µg/L was set in the Groundwater Directive, which is not a health-based, but a general precautionary limit value.

Failure to achieve effect thresholds and quality standards in water means failure to achieve the environmental objectives of the WFD.

The European Green Deal and its associated strategies and actions — the farm to fork strategy, biodiversity strategy, chemicals strategy for sustainability and zero pollution action plan — brings renewed ambition to significantly reduce the use of and risk from pesticides and improve the risk assessment of chemicals.

EU policies aimed at reducing the potential risk from pesticides are also supported by the Plant Protection Products Regulation, the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive and the Biocidal Products Regulation.

  • The Plant Protection Products Regulation sets out rules for the authorisation of plant protection products and their marketing, use and control. Based on this regulation, the Seventh Environment Action Programmeset the objective that, by 2020, the use of plant protection products should not have any harmful effects on human health, or unacceptable influence on the environment, and that such products should be used sustainably. 
  • The Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive aims to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment and to promote the use of integrated pest management and alternatives such as non-chemical approaches.
  • The Biocidal Products Regulation focuses on the marketing and use of biocidal products. 

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