Borderline products

A product is considered to be a so-called "borderline product" when it is difficult to determine whether it is a plant protection product or a fertilizer. Below we specify how the distinction is made, based on interpretation of the legislation and indications on the label or elsewhere for such products.

General principle

Generally speaking, plant protection products and fertilisers are differentiated as follows:

  • Plant protection product: any product claimed to be effective against a disease, pests or weeds, or claimed to have a non-nutritional effect which influences the life processes of plants.
  • Fertiliser: any product claimed to have a nutritional action or soil improving properties,   to act as soil or to have a specific action improving plant production (without being a plant protection product).

This document (in FR or NL) not only contains this general and legal framework, but also lists a number of indications that are mentioned on the label (design) or on any other publication from the company responsible for the marketing of the product, including drawings, diagrams, images,… that may suggest the above-mentioned action. In case of doubt, the composition of the product will also play a part, namely if it contains substances that are known, or even authorised to perform a certain action. As the action performed may depend on the dose or the manner of use, those factors will also be taken into account.

Legal basis

Below you can find the provisions from the legislation regarding the sale of fertilisers and plant protection products:

Royal Decree of 28 January 2013 on the marketing and the use of fertilisers, soil improvers and growing media:

Article 1

For the application of this decree, the following definitions shall apply :

  1. “products”: fertilisers, soil improvers, growing media, sewage sludge and each product with a specific stimulating effect on plant production.

Article 2

This decree applies to the trade in and the use of products, including products mixed with sowing seeds or with (a) plant protection product(s) and without prejudice to the applicable legislation.

Article 40

§1. It is forbidden to use on the label, the packaging, the accompanying document, the publicity and the technical documentation any indication:

  1. contradicting the indications prescribed or authorised by this decree or by the Minister or the civil servant that he appointed for this purpose;
  2. that may confuse the buyer about the nature, the harmlessness, the origin, the purity, the characteristics, the properties or the use of the products referred to in this decree.

Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of 21 October 2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market

Article 2

1. This Regulation shall apply to products, in the form in which they are supplied to the user, consisting of or containing active substances, safeners or synergists, and intended for one of the following uses:

a) protecting plants or plant products against all harmful organisms or preventing the action of such organisms, unless the main purpose of these products is considered to be for reasons of hygiene rather than for the protection of plants or plant products;

b) influencing the life processes of plants, such as substances influencing their growth, other than as a nutrient [or a plant biostimulant]1;

c) preserving plant products, in so far as such substances or products are not subject to special Community provisions on preservatives;

d) destroying undesired plants or parts of plants, except algae unless the products are applied on soil or water to protect plants;

e) checking or preventing undesired growth of plants, except algae unless the products are applied on soil or water to protect plants.

Article 3

[34. “plant biostimulant” means a product stimulating plant nutrition processes independently of the product’s nutrient content with the sole aim of improving one or more of the following characteristics of the plant or the plant rhizosphere:

(a) nutrient use efficiency;

(b) tolerance to abiotic stress;

(c) quality traits;

(d) availability of confined nutrients in soil or rhizosphere.]1

Article 66

4.All statements used in advertising shall be technically justifiable.

1 Modification of PPP-Regulation 1107/2009 by article 47 of Regulation 2019/1009 on ‘fertilising products’; this modification applies from 15/07/2019.

Legal process: double use = double authorisation

Products belonging to category 'fertilisers' must either be included in the positive list of annex 1 of the royal Decree of 28 January or in the positive list of annex 1 of Regulation 2003/2003. If not, a request for exemption must be submitted to the service Plant protection products and Fertilisers. You can find more information here.

Products falling under category 'plant protection products' must be authorised by the service Plant protection products and Fertilisers. You can find more information here.

Products mentioning both types of claims should:

  • Comply with the “fertilising products” legislation and
  • Be the subject of an application for authorisation as a plant protection product.

Entry into force

The above-mentioned document applies since the first of January 2018. The Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain makes use of this document for its checks and takes action accordingly.