Plant protection products

The purpose of plant protection products is to protect crops, fruit and seeds against animals, moulds and weeds. The terms pesticides or spray products are also often used.

There is no distinction based on origin (natural or synthetic product). Products of natural origin used to protect crops, fruits and seeds (in conventional or organic agriculture and horticulture) can also only be sold with federal authorisation.

It is not always clear from the outset whether a product is to be considered as a fertiliser or a plant protection product. We provide the necessary details on this subject.

What do we do?

We evaluate the effects of plant protection products on health, the safety of the food chain and the environment. So we look at the risk to humans and the environment.  Of course, we also check whether the products are sufficiently effective.

The plant protection product placed on the market has several components. We evaluate the entire product at the national level. We evaluate the active ingredient (the "active substance") as well as the complete composition. Indeed, this composition contains a whole series of other substances that are added to, for example, enhance effectiveness, such as wetting agents and adhesives, or to improve conservation, such as antifreeze products.

The active substances are evaluated at European level. A Reporting Member State evaluates the application file the first time. The evaluation report is used to prepare for a discussion with the other Member States and a final evaluation by EFSA. On the basis of the EFSA's conclusions, the European Commission proposes the approval (or not) of the active substance and any restrictions to be imposed. The active substances are approved at European level after a vote on the Commission proposal. Each Member State must therefore vote, and this vote is weighted according to its number of inhabitants. Our service determines the national position after a scientific evaluation of the submitted data. We also act as Reporting Member State for several active substances a year.

Plant protection products, namely the end products as placed on the market, are evaluated at national level, in cooperation with other Member States with similar agricultural circumstances. These products may only contain active substances approved at European level. Applications for plant protection products are evaluated jointly between the Member States in one of the three zones in which the EU is divided. Belgium is part of the Central Zone, together with the Netherlands, Germany, Luxemburg, Hungary, Austria, Ireland, Rumania, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Czechia. A zonal Reporting Member State examines the application file the first time. This evaluation acts as a basis for authorisation in the other Member States in the same zone. We are the zonal Reporting Member State for a few dozen plant protection products a year.

Plant Protection Products and active substances are evaluated when an application is submitted by the company that wishes to put them on the market. In the evaluation of the active substance, scientific publications are taken into account which were published since the authorisation. After the evaluation, a national decision is taken.

The effects of Plant Protection Products on human health and the environment are assessed separately from the evaluation procedure by monitoring alarming scientific publications as well as monitoring measurements taken from food and water.