Facilitating access to biocontrol solutions: products and macro-organisms

Biocontrol is one way of facilitating the substitution of synthetic plant protection products by alternatives. Although they are of natural origin, these solutions still have to be scientifically assessed before they can be used, to ensure their effectiveness and their safety to health and the environment. ANSES has set up an internal organisation to examine applications for biocontrol plant protection products, in order to be able to achieve the shorter processing times imposed by the French Rural Code.

Plant protection products, used on plants and crop products, are active substances that can be harmful to the environment and health. Their assessment and placing on the market are therefore strictly regulated in order to ensure that they are safe to use and to guarantee their agronomic benefits. Alongside "conventional" products, other solutions are being developed. These include "biocontrol" products (micro-organisms, chemical mediators and substances of natural origin) and macro-organisms beneficial to plants.

What are biocontrol solutions?

These solutions may be macro-organisms (invertebrates), plant protection products containing micro-organisms (fungi, bacteria, viruses), chemical mediators such as sex pheromones (chemicals produced by insects that play a role in sexual attraction) or natural substances (of vegetable, animal or mineral origin). Many biocontrol substances are likely to meet the "low risk" criteria set out in Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009.

These solutions aim to protect plants by using mechanisms and interactions that govern the relationships between species in the natural environment (e.g. controlling a pest insect by introducing parasitoid insects, or releasing a non-pathogenic fungus that competes with a phytopathogenic fungus) or that stimulate plant defences. The principle of biocontrol is not therefore based on eradication, but on balanced management of pest populations.

To ensure that its assessments are specific and tailored to the products, ANSES relies on a Working Group on Macro-organisms beneficial to plants and an Expert Committee (CES) on Plant protection substances and products, biocontrol.

Import and release into the environment of macro-organisms: ANSES's work

Releasing non-indigenous macro-organisms (i.e. macro-organisms that are not native to France) can pose risks to the environment (through the introduction of invasive species, for example) and therefore requires regulation. In 2012, the authorities set up a procedure for applying for and granting authorisations relating to the import or release into the environment of non-indigenous macro-organisms beneficial to plants, in particular for biocontrol purposes. This procedure is based, at national level, on assessing the pest risk to the environment (linked to biodiversity) as well as the effectiveness and benefits of use of the macro-organism. This assessment task was entrusted to ANSES.

A list of macro-organisms already released into the environment when the procedure was initiated. This is because the procedure introduced the fact that macro-organisms that had been regularly released into the environment prior to this date, and which did not pose any particular risk, would be exempt from an authorisation application for release into the environment.

ANSES was tasked with drafting this list, based on declarations by companies marketing these macro-organisms and by research and experimentation laboratories and centres.

The Agency now assesses applications for the release of macro-organisms and issues opinions.

The updated list of non-indigenous macro-organisms beneficial to plants authorised under the Ministerial Order of 26 February 2015, or authorised individually and marketed in France, is also available for consultation.

Facilitating the marketing of biocontrol plant protection products: ANSES's involvement

ANSES works to facilitate the marketing of biocontrol plant protection products.

It gives priority to the assessment of marketing application dossiers for biocontrol products.

At European level, it takes part in working groups seeking to improve application examination procedures and assessment methodologies for this type of product.

The list of biocontrol plant protection products

The currently applicable list of biocontrol plant protection products under Articles L.253-5 and L.253‑7 of the French Rural and Maritime Fishing Code is published in the Official Bulletin of the Ministry of Agriculture. This note also sets out the criteria for defining the products concerned and the methodology for drawing up the list.