Integrated health approaches and alternatives to pesticide use

Plant protection and biocidal products (both covered under the term "pesticides") are used in agriculture in order to secure yield and food safety in plant production and animal husbandry. At the same time, pesticides may have effects on the environment, non-target organisms, animal and human health. In the EU they are regulated and assessed for pre-market approval but tools and methods need to be further developed to better understand the overall risks and impacts associated with their individual and combined use and possible side effects. Member States and EU policies seek to reduce reliance on pesticides by designing and implementing more integrated approaches towards the use of pesticides while at the same time safeguarding the competitiveness of EU's agriculture. Significant efforts are required to develop alternatives to critical active substances used in plant protection and/or biocidal products. It is also necessary to carry out an overall assessment in order to gauge the complexity and trade-offs inherent to the sustainable use of pesticides and related impacts at various scales, in line with a global health approach.


Proposals should address only one of the following sub-topics:

A. [2019]: Integration of plant protection in a global health approach (RIA)

Activities will test and deliver integrated approaches to advance in the assessment of the impacts of plant protection products and their metabolites (PPPs) on plant, human, animal and ecosystem health. Activities will build on existing data, validated models of PPPs fluxes/concentrations, models for economic analysis, integrated risk assessment tools, running projects and the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) activities. Activities will support new measurements and observations and further develop more comprehensive and reliable models. A synthesis of risks, cost and benefit analysis of PPPs' use at different spatial and temporal scales and their distribution between different stakeholders should be performed (including damages caused by pests, product quality and regulatory costs). Activities will build on representative case studies covering different agricultural products.

In terms of human health, both direct and indirect exposures to PPPs will be taken into account with a particular focus on direct exposure of farmers and the rural population and the exposure of consumers to PPP residues in food. Animal health risk assessment should take into account the exposure to residues of PPPs in feed (aggregating EU uses and residues in imported feed). Work on environmental risks and impacts should consider the diversity of European agricultural landscapes, as well as ecological and environmental variability. It should make it possible to gauge the spatial dimension of impacts and map risks at regional, national, European and global levels while considering other regulatory initiatives, in particular the Common Agricultural Policy, the protection of European biodiversity and the Water Framework Directive.

Proposals will identify lock-ins, develop transition paths towards a sustainable use of PPPs, taking a transdisciplinary approach, and should consider the needs of risk managers for the authorisation/restriction of PPPs as well as of farmers for selecting more appropriate and sustainable products and their optimal use avoiding side effects. Activities will include the development of a research agenda on plant protection in the context of a global health approach.

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of up to EUR 15 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

B. [2020] Biocidal and plant protection products (IA)

All sub-topics (A), (B): Projects should fall under the concept of the ‘multi-actor approach’ bringing together contributions from a wide range of stakeholders including research, farming, advisory services, industry as well as consumers and civil society. They should also seek contributions from social and economic sciences to cover the broader economic, social, behavioural and environmental issues associated with the adoption of novel management strategies. This will include looking at gender aspects, as appropriate.

Expected Impact

Activities will contribute to a better understanding of complex, interlinked issues and reduce the reliance on the use of pesticides by helping to:

  • establish the impacts of the use or non-use of pesticides on the environment and human health (consumers, operators, farm workers and residents in agricultural areas);
  • improve farmer, consumer and citizen awareness of and trust in global health approaches through clear and transparent and integrated assessments, plant health protection strategies and related communication;
  • contribute to the ongoing collection of harmonised EU-wide datasets in open source collaboration and of indicators to assess and monitor trends over time and support risk management measures (scope A);
  • improve monitoring of pesticide uses and pressures on human and animal health and the environment, by developing appropriate tools and integrated approaches considering various pathways (scope A);
  • foster lasting transdisciplinary cooperation in the fields of life sciences, human, plant and animal health and environmental sciences and strengthen the European scientific community on global health approaches (scope A);
  • support relevant EU plant health policies and/or European risk assessments in relation to EFSA's activities.

In the longer-term results will strengthen an integrated health approach and foster the sustainable use of pesticides thereby reducing the exposure of human and animals, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, drinking water and the food chain to pesticides.

Delegation Exception Footnote

It is expected that this topic will continue in 2020

Cross-cutting Priorities

  • Socio-economic science and humanities
  • RRI
  • Gender
Application date
Social sciences : Management and Public administration, Information and Communication Sciences, Demography, Environmental Sciences, Gender studies, Identities, gender and sexuality, Geography, Pedagogic & Education Research, Psychology & Cognitive Sciences
Humanities : Anthropology & Ethnology