In the Netherlands the Dutch government and agribusiness have set up the Multi-year Plan Crop Protection. One important objective for the year 2000 is to halve the use of pesticides in comparison to 1984-1986. Other goals are to make the agricultural sector in the year 2000 less dependent on chemicals and to reduce the emission of pesticides into the environment.

Regulation on the use of pesticides

It is up to the agricultural sector itself to reduce the quantities of pesticides that are used. If the target is not achieved, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature Management and Fisheries will tighten the regulation on the use of pesticides. This could be done, for example, by making it compulsory to keep records of the pesticides that have been used, or through fiscal measures.

Emission target

An important objective of the Multi-year Plan Crop Protection is the emission target. This includes setting a maximum for the emission of pesticides to the air and water, improving spraying equipment and establishing no-spraying zones along the banks of drainage canals, among other measures. Such measures might be included in regulations in the near future.

Reliance on chemicals can only be reduced if good alternatives are available. Biological pesticides and herbicides are being studied at the European level. An European report is expected in the course of 1999 in which the European Member States will make proposals for a joint approach to the authorisation of biological pesticides and herbicides.

Dutch authorisation of pesticides

In the Netherlands the authorisation of pesticides is the responsibility of the Board for the Authorisation of Pesticides. A manufacturer of pesticides that wants to introduce a particular chemical in a particular crop is required to carry out research into the effectiveness, safety and environmental hazards of the substance in question. The outcomes are delivered to the Board for the Authorisation of Pesticides in the form of a dossier.

This Board evaluates the research and grants or withholds authorisation. Authorisation may also be granted subject to toxicological data and field trials. A number of factors play a role in the evaluation, including the degree to which the pesticide can enter the environment, the rate of degradation and the possible effect on water organisms. The final goal is to protect the consumer from exposure to unacceptable levels of the substance. This is determined on the basis of the average Dutch diet, expressed in primary agricultural products.

European authorisation of pesticides

European harmonised authorisation has the advantage of eliminating the existing differences in procedures and authorisation criteria. In Europe, guideline 91/414/EC serves as a basis. However the international authorisation of pesticides has proved difficult. Of the ‘old substances’ category, that is, of the substances that were on the market before July 25th 1993, the European Commission has thus far only authorised imazalil. Three other compounds are no longer permitted.

Of the ‘new substances’ that were not yet on the European market on July 25th 1993, about forty are at present being processed by the European Commission. Thus far none of these chemicals has won overall European authorisation, although various Member States have provisionally authorised a number of pesticides based on kresoxim-methyl, according to the annual report of the Board for the Authorisation of Pesticides.

Dutch Pesticide Act

The Dutch Pesticide Act lists the maximum permitted residue levels of pesticides that may be found in or on an agricultural product. Because of the European harmonisation of residue limits, the Pesticide Act is continually being modified. Good Agricultural Practice, or GAP, and the results of the toxicological risk evaluation are important bases for the Pesticide Act. In this connection good agricultural use means that no more of the pesticide may be used than is strictly necessary to combat a disease or infestation in a particular crop.

The Commodity Act lists the limits for nitrate in leafy vegetables and red beets. These limits are also based on European proposals. Early in 1997 the European Council of Ministers agreed that the limit for lettuce would be 3,500 mg/kg in summer and 4,500 mg/kg in winter. For spinach there are stricter limits at the European level. Vegetables destined for the domestic market may exceed these limits, but this must be reported to Brussels.