Plant protection products, which are formulations used to protect plants and crops, are active substances that can be harmful to the environment and to health. Their assessment as well as their marketing are therefore strictly regulated in order to guarantee the safety of their use and their agricultural utility. Other types of products are also being developed alongside these "conventional" ones. Among them, we find "biological control" products, which include micro-organisms, chemical mediators and natural substances.
What are biological pest control products?
Biological pest control products can be either macro-organisms (invertebrates, insects, mites and nematodes), plant protection products containing micro-organisms (fungi, bacteria, viruses), chemical mediators such as sex pheromones (chemical substances produced by insects that play a role in sexual attraction) or natural plant, animal or mineral-based substances. Many of these biological control substances are likely to fulfil the "low risk" criteria set down in regulation (EC) no. 107/2009.
These products aim to protect plants through the processes and interactions that govern inter-species relationships (i.e. controlling insect pests through the introduction of parasitoid insects, or introducing a non-pathogenic fungus into the environment which competes with a fungal plant pathogen) or which stimulate the natural defences of plants. The biological control principle is therefore not founded on eradication but rather on managing the equilibrium between populations of plant pests.
To conduct the assessments in a specific manner suited to products based on macro- and micro-organisms, ANSES was supported by the Expert Committee (CES) on micro-organisms and macro-organisms that are beneficial to plants.
ANSES's work regarding entry into the country, and introduction into the environment, of macro-organisms
Since non-indigenous macro-organisms (i.e. those not found in the country) can pose a risk for the environment – through the introduction of invasive species, for example –, their introduction requires a regulatory framework. In 2012, a procedure for requesting and issuing authorisations for the entry into the country and introduction into the environment of non-indigenous macro-organisms that are beneficial to plants, within the framework of biological control efforts, was established by the authorities. On the national level, this procedure is based on an assessment of the environmental and plant health risk (with regard to biodiversity) as well as the efficacy and benefits of use of a given macro-organism. ANSES has been asked to carry out this assessment.
The authorities have also provided for the creation of a list of macro-organisms introduced into the environment and the date the process was instigated. In fact, those macro-organisms that were duly introduced into the environment before that time, and which do not present any particular risk, may be exempted from requesting authorisation for introduction into the environment.
ANSES was in charge of drafting this list based on declarations by companies marketing these types of macro-organisms and by research and experimentation laboratories and centres. To date, the list contains 448 macro-organisms. It can be found in the Agency's opinion on a request for simplified assessment of the environmental and plant health risk for a list of non-indigenous macro-organisms beneficial to plants [See the opinion on a request for simplified assessment of the environmental and plant health risk for a list of non-indigenous macro-organisms beneficial to plants (PDF) (in French) ]
Facilitating the marketing of biological pest control products: ANSES's commitment
ANSES has played an active role in facilitating the marketing of biological control products. On a regulatory level, it also actively participated in defining the guideline adopted by the European Commission in 2013 for exempting certain products from the Maximum Residue Limits when they present a low risk for consumers, thus facilitating their marketing authorisation (for example heptamaloxyloglucan, laminarin, sulfur).
It participates actively, as a rapporteur Member State, in the European assessment of active micro-organism-based substances.
As one of its major priorities, it conducts the assessment of marketing authorisation application dossiers for biological control products.
In an opinion published in 2012, the Agency also issued proposals for adjusting the risk assessment procedures for biological control-based plant protection products, and in particular for pheromone-based products. Lastly, it participates in methodological working groups on experimentation using certain types of these products.
Biological pest control list
The current list is defined in guidance note DGAL/SDQSPV/2016-853 dated 03/11/16 and published in the official bulletin of the ministry. This note also provides the criteria for drawing up definitions for the targeted products and the methods used for establishing the list.
Guidance note (in French): info.agriculture.gouv.fr/gedei/site/bo-agri/supima/2d320671-26c8-4970-abce-4e01755eae28