The Food and Environment Protection Act

Statutory powers to control pesticides are contained within Part III of Food and Environment Protection Act (FEPA). Section 16 of the Act describes the aims of the controls as being to:

  • protect the health of human beings, creatures and plants
  • safeguard the environment
  • secure safe, efficient and humane methods of controlling pests
  • make information about pesticides available to the public

The Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986

The mechanism by which these aims are achieved in Great Britain is set out in regulations made under the Act. The Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) 1986 (SI 1986/1510):

  • define in detail those types of pesticides which are subject to control and those which are excluded
  • prescribe the approvals required before any pesticide may be sold, stored, supplied, used or advertised
  • allow for general conditions on sale, supply, storage, advertisement, and use, including aerial application of pesticides.

The 1986 Regulations were updated by the COPR (Amendment) Regulations 1997 (SI 1997/188) and several other pieces of legislation.
Similar legislation applies in Northern Ireland: Control of Pesticides Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1987 (SI 1987/414, as amended).

COPR has largely been overtaken by legislation derived from the EU regulating plant protection products (pesticides to protect plants/crops), and only survives to regulate a few commodity substances and products generated in situ, which fall outside the scope of the more recent legislation.

Definition of pesticides

Under FEPA, a pesticide is any substance, preparation or organism prepared or used, among other uses, to protect plants or wood or other plant products from harmful organisms; to regulate the growth of plants; to give protection against harmful creatures; or to render such creatures harmless.

The term pesticides therefore has a very broad definition which embraces herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, rodenticides, soil-sterilants, wood preservatives and surface biocides among others. A more complete definition and details of pesticides which fall outside the scope of the legislation is given in Regulation 3 of COPR.

Who is affected by the legislation?

Anyone who advertises, sells, supplies, stores or uses a pesticide is affected by the legislation, including people who use pesticides in their own homes, gardens and allotments.

Further information

UK legislation

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Updated 2024-04-26