Plant protective agents, also referred to as pesticides, are intended to protect plants or living parts of plants and plant produce against animals, other plants or pests. These agents are categorised into fungicides (fungi), herbicides (weeds), insecticides (insects), molluscicides (snails, etc.), rodenticides (rats and other rodents) according to their mode type of action.

In addition, co-formulants, such as safeners and synergists are used, which affect the impact of the plant protection product. Safeners serve to eliminate or reduce the phytotoxic effect of the preparation on certain plants. Synergists as such have no or only a minor impact on harmful organisms; however, they can reinforce the impact of a plant protection product.

Risk assessment and approval of pesticides

Yet the impact of pesticides is do not necessarily limited to have just beneficial effects on plant cultivation. Their use may also bear risks for humans, animals and the environment, which. This is why they are subject to approval before they can be marketed. At EU level, approval of the active components is granted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and at national level approval is granted by the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL). Approval of a new active ingredient always entails comes with thea definition of its maximum residue level (MRL).

Statutory regulations and maximum residue levels

Since 1 September 2008 standardised maximum residue levels for pesticides have been valid throughout the European Community. They were stipulated in Regulation (EC) No. 396/2005 on maximum residue levels of pesticides in or on food and feed of plant and animal origin. The range of pesticides approved within the EU comprises several hundred agents. Along with these there are non-approved agents, for which maximum levels of 0.01 mg/kg have been defined.

On a national level, the Ordinance on maximum residue levels (RHmV) also regulates co-formulants of plant protection product such as safeners (e.g. cloquintocet-mexyl) and synergists (e.g. piperonyl butoxide).