Beer and mustard seed approved as new basic substances for plant protection

This month, beer and ground mustard seed were added to the EU list of basic substances for plant protection purposes. The list now contains more than 20 substances that can be used for plant protection under specific conditions. Beer has been authorised for use against slugs and snails, and mustard seed has been authorised as a fungicide. It is generally assumed that using these basic substances entails little risk. Such substances must not affect the hormone balance, the nervous system or the immune system. For example, the herb mugwort was rejected as a basic substance because not enough was known about the effects of long-term exposure when used for plant protection.

Not marketed as a product

Growers are permitted to use basic substances for plant protection for specific uses, but the products must not be marketed as plant protection products. For example, bottles of ‘snail beer’, intended to control snails, are not permitted. The list of approved basic substances includes charcoal, nettle, sunflower oil and whey.

All stakeholders can submit applications

The status ‘basic substance’ is sometimes referred to as an alternative for products falling under the repealed Pesticides Exemption Scheme (RUB) in the Netherlands. However, basic substances are authorised at the European level. Applications can be submitted by every stakeholder, including the Member States themselves. For example, the authorisation of beer was requested by a French research institute for organic agriculture (ITAB), which has previously requested various European authorisations for basic substances. A basic substance is approved by the European Commission following a scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and following consultation with all Member States. The entire procedure takes about one year. The approval of a basic substance does not have an expiration date, but the approval does include specific conditions of use.

A list of authorised basic substances can be found in the EU Pesticides database