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Food Safety


What are Pesticides?

A 'pesticide' prevents, destroys, or controls a harmful organism ('pest') or disease, or protects plants or plant products during production, storage and transport.

They include, amongst others: herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, acaricides, nematicides, molluscicides, growth regulators, repellents, rodenticides and biocides.

What is a Plant Protection Product?

Plant protection products are 'pesticides' that protect crops or desirable or useful plants.

They are primarily used in the agricultural sector but also in forestry, horticulture, amenity areas and in home gardens.

They contain at least one active substance and have one of the following functions:

  • protect plants or plant products against pests/diseases, before or after harvest
  • influence the life processes of plants (such as substances influencing their growth, excluding nutrients)
  • preserve plant products
  • destroy or prevent growth of undesired plants or parts of plants

They usually also contain other components called co-formulants and may also contain safeners or synergists.

EU countries authorise plant protection products on their territory and ensure compliance with EU rules

What are active substances, safeners or synergists?

An active substance is any chemical, plant extract, pheromone or micro-organism (including viruses), that has action against 'pests' or on plants, parts of plants or plant products.

A safener is a substance or preparation, which is added to a plant protection product to eliminate or reduce phytotoxic effects of the plant protection product on certain plants.

A synergist is a substance or preparation which, while showing no or only weak activity as referred to in Article 2, paragraph 1, of Regulation (EC) 1107/2009, can give enhanced activity to the active substance(s) in a plant protection product.

Before an active substance, safener, or synergist can be used within a plant protection product in the EU, it must be approved by the European Commission.

Such active substances, safeners or synergists undergo an intensive evaluation and peer-review by Member States and the European Food Safety Authority before a decision can be made on approval. See our Approval of active substances, safeners and synergists page for further information.

You can also search for active substances, safeners and synergists.

What is the difference between pesticides and plant protection products?

The most common use of pesticides is in the form of plant protection products (PPPs).

The term 'pesticide' is often used interchangeably with 'plant protection product', however, pesticide is a broader term that also covers non plant/crop uses, for example biocides.

This area of the Europa website contains information about plant protection products and the active substances contained in these.

If you require information on Biocides, please refer to our Public Health website.