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Linking pesticide marketing authorisations with environmental impact assessments through realistic landscape risk assessment paradigms

Streissl, Franz, Egsmose, Mark, Tarazona, José V
Ecotoxicology 2018 v.27 no.7 pp. 980-991
European Union, active ingredients, biodiversity, ecoregions, ecosystem services, ecotypes, environmental assessment, experts, food safety, landscapes, laws and regulations, marketing, models, national planning, pesticides, plant protection, risk, risk assessment process
Each year, the European Food Safety Authority, supported by a network of experts in the EU Member States, assesses and publishes the environmental risks of 30–40 pesticides active substances. The assessments support hundreds of national risk evaluations for marketing (re-)authorisations of Plant Protection Products. These prospective regulatory evaluations are based on worst-case scenarios in order to provide the high level of protection required by the EU legislations, and establishes the conditions for a correct use of the products including risk mitigations options. However, recent publications suggest that the desired high level of protection may not be achieved with the current risk assessment paradigm. The consideration of larger spatial scales and multiple stressors, including different pesticide uses, could improve the risk assessment process. A next step is the use of these larger spatial scales for evidence-based assessments, evaluating the overall impact of pesticide use on the European environment and biodiversity. Reaching this level would provide science-based support to the National Plans on sustainable use of pesticides and to the broader EU policies defined in the EU Environmental Action Programmes. Recent technological developments, as well as policy efforts, have solved two of the key issues blocking this progress in the past. Data availability and technical capacity for handling Big Data are no longer an unaffordable obstacle. The current proposal presents an alternative environmental risk assessment paradigm, integrating use patterns and pesticides properties with landscape ecotypes and eco-regions, covering the variability of the European agro-environmental conditions. The paradigm is suggested to be implemented in a spatially explicit conceptual model, using the ecosystem services approach and vulnerable key driver species to represent the service providing units. This approach would allow mapping the likelihood and magnitude of the impact of pesticide use on ecosystems functions, environmental resources, and biodiversity at the EU scale.