The EU regulatory process used in Ireland for authorising plant protection products is widely acknowledged to be one of the most robust chemical regulatory systems in the world. Pesticide active substances to be used in plant protection products (PPPs) can only be approved in the EU if a rigorous scientific assessment clearly shows that their use would not be expected to have any harmful effects on human and animal health or the environment. Plant protection products themselves can only be placed on the market of a Member State if it is deemed safe to do so, by both the European Food Safety Authority and the competent authorities of the Member States.
In parallel with the registration process, Directive 128/2009 on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides provides a framework which reduces the risks associated with their use, at farm level, amateur level and municipal level. This framework includes mandatory training and certification for professional users (farmers, landscapers etc.), distributors and advisors. The framework also makes it obligatory to have pesticide application equipment tested periodically. In addition, it is compulsory for users to apply the general principles of Integrated Pest Management. These principles ensure that sustainable crop protection strategies are utilised and that farmers only resort to chemical pest control if there is no viable alternative. In line with obligations under Directive 128/2009, my Department has produced documents/guides related to the use of pesticides in the context of Integrated Pest Management and has funded a number of research projects in relation to Integrated Pest Management practices at farm level. Detailed records of use are maintained at end user level and these records are examined during the farm inspection program carried out by my Department. Finally, there are restrictions on pesticide use in certain sensitive areas of the country such as around water courses and ground water vulnerable areas.
Overall, Eurostat statistics show that Ireland has among the lowest plant protection product sales and use in the EU. The 2014 figures show that PPP sales in Ireland were less than 0.6 kg/ha of utilisable agricultural area, the second lowest in the EU. Harmonised risk indicators are currently being agreed at EU level and will provide a standardised basis for assessing progress in reducing impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment.