Plant protective agents, also referred to as pesticides, are intended to protect plants or living parts of plants and plant produce against animals, 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 type of action.

Risk assessment and approval of pesticides

Yet pesticides do not necessarily have just beneficial effects on plant cultivation. Their use may also bear risks for humans, animals and the environment. 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 comes with the definition of its maximum residue level (MRL).

Statutory regulations and maximum residue levels

Since 1 September 2008 consistent 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.