Historical background and scope

Legislation on the authorisation of pesticides in many states dates from around the middle of the last century. In The Netherlands the 1947 act on pesticides and fertilisers focused mainly on the efficacy of the pesticide products.3 The current Dutch Pesticides Act (Act) dates from 1962.4 During the course of subsequent amendments the focus of the Act shifted. At first, it was consumers and occupational health that needed to be protected; later, the environment itself was seen as in need of protection. Protection of the environment became an explicit goal of the Act in the beginning of the 1970s. By that time some effects of long-term use had become clear, such as bio-accumulation of certain persistent substances in birds at the end of the food chain.5

In the United States the registration of pesticides is based on the 1947 Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).6 The 1910 Insecticide Act was the first US statute to govern pesticide use. It contained standards for the purity of substances, but did not require product registration (Formica & Miller 1999). However, it took a very long time - until the beginning of the 1970s - before the federal registration became more than a rather empty formality. One of the problems of the 1947 Act was that the Secretary of Agriculture could not refuse registration, another that the FIFRA only concerned interstate commerce. In 1972 the scope of the federal law was extended. The Federal Environmental Pesticides Control Act of 1972 changed FIFRA into the act which is the basis of today's FIFRA (Miller 1997). In the meantime the adverse effects of using pesticides had arisen as a topic on the American public agenda. Important steps to public awareness included the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962, and lawsuits by environmental groups, which in the 1970s contributed to the suspension or cancellation of the registration of several major pesticides (Miller 1997; Formica & Miller 1999). Before 1972 registrations were handled by the United States Department of Agriculture, but the 1972 amendment made environmental protection, including human health, the main goal of FIFRA registrations by the Environmental Protection Agency. The 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA) resulted in another important amendment to FIFRA registration requirements. The FQPA strengthened the requirements regarding food residues, including those resulting from the cumulative effects of pesticides.7 The FQPA amended both the FIFRA and the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA). The residue standards set by the FFDCA have to be applied under the FIFRA.

The pesticide legislation of various European Union member states changed considerably as a result of the 1991 Directive on the marketing and use of plant protection products. The Directive harmonised the procedures and criteria for making decisions on plant protection products at the national level. At the European Community (EC) level it also created a system for authorising the active substances in these pesticide products.

Directive 91/414 concerns the authorisation of agricultural pesticides, in EC terminology, plant protection products. Non-agricultural pesticides, biocidal products, are regulated by Directive 98/8/EC, on the marketing and use of biocides (see Cardonnel & van Maldegem 1998a; 1998b; Vogelezang-Stoute 1999).8 Some of the differences between these two Directives will be discussed. These two directives are central to the marketing and use of pesticides. There are, however, many other EC directives and regulations that, although outside the scope of this analysis, have an influence on the marketing and use of pesticides, including directives and regulations on residues, on classification, packaging and labelling, on certain active substances and on agri-environmental measures.9

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