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National Action Plan to achieve the sustainable use of plant protection products

Action plans for reducing pesticide-related risks to human health and the environment in the Member States are based on the Thematic Strategy on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides adopted by the European Parliament in 2002. The European Commission has followed these guidelines by adopting a package of legislation laying down strict criteria for the authorisation of plant protection products (PPPs), the collection of data on the sale and use of PPPs, and measures in the framework of the legislation on the sustainable use of PPPs. All these measures are covered by the national action plan aimed at reducing the risks of the potential impact of PPPs on human health, animals, drinking water, surface and groundwater and other environments.

History of the National Action Plan (NAP) in Slovenia

Slovenia adopted the first NAP at the end of 2012; it covered the 2012–2022 period. It contained 19 risk indicators from different fields of PPP use. Because the NAP must be revised and amended every five years, the  amended NAP for the 2018–2022 period was adopted in 2018. 

The first report on the implementation of NAP measures for the 2013–2015 period was produced in 2015, followed by the final progress report on the implementation of the NAP for the 2013–2017 period in 2018.

Objectives of the National Action Plan

The principal objective of the NAP is the reduction of impact and effects of the use of PPPs on health and the environment. 

Specific objectives include the minimisation of the hazards and risks from the use of PPPs, restrictions on their use, reduction of PPP residues in food and waters, strengthening of integrated plant protection, encouraging the use of low-risk plant protection methods, and advanced PPP application techniques.  

Measures and risk indicators

The NAP addresses all measures to reduce the risks of using PPPs, from education and information, technical conditions for the trade in PPPs and their use, monitoring and official control of the use of PPPs, produced food and drinking water, to the reduction of PPP use in public areas.

The measures are intended to raise awareness among users of the proper use of PPPs, with an emphasis on the protection of groundwater and surface water and bees, of the safe disposal of waste and packaging of PPPs, and to promote integrated and organic production and the use of non-chemical plant protection and low-risk plant protection methods. 

On 7 November 2017, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia adopted a position concerning the approval of the active substance glyphosate: it issued a decision advocating the prohibition of glyphosate use and provided for an appropriate adaptation period for agriculture. As part of the NAP framework, the Government of Slovenia is committed to reducing the use of chemical PPPs in general and limiting the use of herbicides in public areas; it advocates the reduction of risks from the use of PPPs for health and the environment by reducing the frequency of use in the long term.

By adopting the relevant regulations, the Government has restricted the use of herbicides in public areas, namely roads and railways, which becomes effective on 1 April 2021, and other public areas, which became effective on 1 October 2019. Managers of these areas will need to find alternative non-chemical weed control methods. 

Although the risk indicators for the 2018–2022 period have been slightly changed in comparison to the previous period, they have remained similar for the most part. By comparing the data from the risk indicators for the two periods, the Government will assess the progress made in reducing the risks from the use of PPPs at the end of the 2018– 2022 period. 

National risk indicators

National risk indicators have been established on the basis of available data on PPPs. These data are the basis for the monitoring of the future trends of the sale and use of PPPs in the environment. 

Risk indicators in the final progress report on the implementation of the National Action Plan to achieve the sustainable use of plant protection products for the 2013–2017 period:

  1. The data on PPPs show the trends of PPP sales. The data are annually submitted by stores authorised for trade in PPPs; they cover the sale of PPPs regardless of their intended use (agricultural and non-agricultural areas). The sales of PPPs vary according to their use, which is mostly influenced by weather conditions. Fungicides account for the largest share in the sales of PPPs (around 70% of all PPPs), with copper and sulfur-based preparations accounting for over 50% of fungicides. In 2017, stores sold 1,090 tonnes of active substances in PPPs. 
  2. The estimate of the use of PPPs in agriculture is made by the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia. In 2014, the estimated use of PPPs in agriculture was a third lower than the quantity sold. 
  3. The number of persons who have obtained or renewed a training certificate on PPPs means the number of persons who use, sell or advise on PPPs in their work receive regular training on PPPs. These data are comparable over a longer period because distributors and advisors for PPPs attend the training for the renewal of the certificate every three years and PPP users every five years. The number of valid certificates is approximately 57,000. 
  4. The number of inspected sprayers is the number of sprayers that are regularly checked for technical performance, which is the condition for the proper application of PPPs. This information is comparable over a longer period because PPP users have their sprayers checked every three years. There are about 18,000 sprayers with a valid label. 
  5. The data on the age of sprayers shows the years of use of the agricultural machinery for the application of PPPs. New sprayers are technically more advanced and less worn out, so they allow for a better quality of PPP application. The average age of spraying equipment in 2017 was 22 years. 
  6. The number of new machinery for non-chemical weed control: In the framework of rural development measures, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food promotes the purchase of machinery for mechanical weed control. The use of such machinery reduces the use of herbicides (weed control PPPs). 178 units of machinery were purchased in 2017. 
  7. The data on pesticide residues in food and feed, which are the basis for monitoring PPP residues in food and feed on the market and the proper use of PPPs in agricultural and organic production, show the quantities of pesticides contained in food and feed. The share of samples that exceed the permitted pesticide residue levels is relatively small. When maximum levels are exceeded, the Government performs a human health risk assessment and assesses the safety of food or feed. The monitoring results show that people consume foodstuffs not containing pesticide residues that pose a risk to human health. 0.6% of the 735 samples taken in 2016 were non-compliant. 
  8. Based on the data on PPP residues in groundwater and surface waters, the Slovenian Environment Agency at the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning monitors the status of groundwater and surface waters in relation to PPPs and many other pollutants. The levels of pesticides in groundwater have decreased in the past few years. Monitoring of drinking water is carried out by the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food
  9. The number of agricultural holdings and areas with organic production is slowly but steadily increasing. In 2017, organic production was used on 9.6% agricultural areas.
  10. The data on the poisoning of people with PPPs are monitored by the National Institute of Public Health (hospital treatments) and the Centre for Clinical Toxicology and Pharmacology at the University Medical Centre Ljubljana (emergency treatment). The number of hospital treatments of PPP poisoning is decreasing, with seven cases in 2017. There are not many emergency cases of workers professionally involved with PPPs; one such case was recorded in 2017. There are more cases of poisoning of PPP users who are not professionally involved in agriculture (eight in 2017).

Calculation of risk indicators

Since 2019, the Administration of the Republic of Slovenia for Food Safety, Veterinary Sector and Plant Protection has been obliged to monitor progress in reducing risk and adverse effects of PPPs on health and the environment according to the methodology adopted by the EU. This is determined by the Commission Directive (EU) 2019/782 of 15 May 2019 amending Directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the establishment of harmonised risk indicators. To this end, two risk indicators used for monitoring progress must be calculated. Harmonised risk indicators have been established by the European Commission and apply throughout the EU.

Indicator 1 is calculated on the basis of statistical data on quantities of active substances in PPPs placed on the market.

Indicator 2 is calculated on the basis of the number of emergency authorisations for the use of PPPs. 

The indicators for the 2011–2021 period were calculated by the European Commission on the basis of the data sent by Slovenia. The European Commission calculates common risk indicators for the EU from the data sent by the Member States and publishes them on its website in relation to sustainable use of pesticides.