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Compensatory Application Provisions of Plant Protection Products to Protect Biodiversity

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 July 2020

Alexander KOOF
Affiliation:
Dr. iur., Lawyer at the law firm KOOF & KOLLEGEN Rechtsanwälte, Germany; email: alexander.koof@koof.eu.
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Abstract

For the protection of biodiversity, the German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) pursues the goal of establishing compensation areas to balance unavoidable indirect effects on nature and the environment caused by the application of plant protection products. Whether there is a legal basis for this within either European Union or national law is one of the most debated and pressing issues currently in the authorisation procedure for plant protection products in Germany. The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive legal assessment of whether it is legally permissible to make plant protection product authorisations contingent to compensatory application provisions to protect biodiversity.

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© The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

The author wishes to thank Ms Cara van Burck for review.

References

1 Also referred to as “pesticides”. The term “plant protection product” is a legal term defined in Article 2(1) Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009.

2 Herbicides are chemicals that destroy or inhibit the growth of plants.

3 A fungicide is an active substance that kills fungi or their spores or prevents their growth.

4 Insecticides are used to kill, repel or inhibit insects.

5 Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21.10.2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market and repealing Council Directives 79/117/EEC and 91/414/EEC, OJ No L 309, p 1, Celex No 32009R1107; refer to the variants of plant protection authorisation procedures in P Koof, “Die Bedeutung des Unionsrechts für das Verhältnis des Bundesamtes für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit zu den Beteiligungsbehörden” (2018) 2 StoffR 65, 65.

6 In 1991, Directive 91/414/EEC started the harmonisation of the authorisation of plant protection products in the EU. In 2009, this Directive was replaced by Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market, which now forms the basis of Union law. In addition, there are implementing regulations and technical guidance documents that regulate details of the procedures. The main principles are: (1) The active substances of plant protection products are evaluated in an EU procedure. (2) Every plant protection product (ie commercial product) requires an authorisation in each Member State in which it is to be placed on the market. Such authorisations shall be granted by the European Member States. (3) EU legislation sets out the data requirements that an applicant must submit for an active substance approval and for a product authorisation. (4) Maximum residue levels for active substances of plant protection products in food and feed are set at the EU level in a Community procedure. (5) European Member States are required to monitor the sale and use of plant protection products and to check food and feed for residues. The EU lays down the standards for this and checks compliance with them.

7 In contrast to the assessment of the JKI and BfR, the BVL is bound by the assessment of the UBA according to the jurisdiction of the VG Braunschweig. VG Braunschweig, Court decision from 4 September 2019 – 9 A 11/19, ECLI:DE:VGBRAUN:2019:0904.9A11.19.00; VG Braunschweig, Court decision from 4 September 2019 – 9 A 18/19, ECLI:DE:VGBRAUN:2019:0904.9A18.19.00.

8 UBA, “Position – 5-Punkte-Programm für einen nachhaltigen Pflanzenschutz” (2016) 36 <www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/377/publikationen/uba-positionspapier_5-punkte-programm_nachhaltigkeit_pflanzenschutz_web.pdf> (last accessed 8 May 2020) (UBA 2016).

9 The Bundestag publication 19/11292 p 2 notes that the UBA uses the concept of “biodiversity” and “biological diversity” as synonyms in the meaning of Art 3 No 29 Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009. According to Art 3 No 29 of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, the regulation legally defines the term “biodiversity” to mean the variability among living organisms of any provenance, including terrestrial, maritime and other aquatic ecosystems, as well as the ecological interrelations in which they are involved; this variability can encompass both intraspecies and interspecies variability, in addition to ecosystem diversity.

10 BMEL, “Press release no. 61 of 15 March 2019” (2019) <www.bmel.de/SharedDocs/Pressemitteilungen/2019/061-Faktencheck-Pflanzenschutzmittel.html> (last accessed 10 May 2020). The present legal position is largely supported by internal legal opinions and statements issued by the responsible ministries, these being the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI), the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJ) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) after consultation with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). BMEL memorandum of 27 January 2016, 11 July 2017 (ref. no. 512-512-64210/0018) and minutes of 17 February 2016 (ref. no. 512-32103/0003).

11 R Klinger, K Borwieck and C Douhaire, “Rechtsgutachten zum Schutz von terrestrischen Nichtzielarten einschließlich der biologischen Vielfalt vor den Auswirkungen von Pflanzenschutzmitteln” (2017) 55(52) <www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/1410/publikationen/2017-11-07_texte_101_2017_rechtsgutachten-pflanzenschutzmittel.pdf≥ (last accessed 10 May 2020) (UBA 2017); for a critical view, see BMEL, memorandum of 11 July 2017 (ref. no. 512-512-64210/0018).

12 Act on the Protection of Cultivated Plants (Plant Protection Act – PflSchG), Plant Protection Act of 6 February 2012 (Federal Law Gazette I p 148, 1281) last amended by Art 4(84) of the Act of 18 July 2016 (Federal Law Gazette I p 1666).

13 Application condition Biodiv 1: “The product may not be used for the purpose of protecting the biological diversity unless the overall area of arable land (farmland used for arable crops, fallow farmland) of an agricultural business comprises a sufficient portion of biodiversity areas. The proportion is deemed sufficient if the sum of the weighted biodiversity areas in [ha] accounts for not less than 10 per cent of the numeric value of the agricultural business in [ha]. The portion of the area set aside for biodiversity is to be determined as shown in the accompanying brochure [found at BVL].

The requirements of this application rule shall be complied with from 1 January 2020 onward.”

14 Application condition Biodiv 2: “In addition to the records prepared under Section 11(1) PflSchG, the user must document that the required biodiversity area was in place at the time of application. For this purpose, the user shall furnish the following information:

– The portion of biodiversity areas in relation to the arable area [ha] of the agricultural business as prescribed by the ‘Biodiv 1’ application rule for the plant protection product to be used, as existing at the time of use

– Location of the utilised arable area(s) according to the real estate cadastre local subdistrict, cadastral district, cadastral unit number [german: Gemarkung, Flur, Furstücknummer] including the dimensions of the subarea set aside as a biodiversity area in ha, the respective type of biodiversity area, and its ecological value as weighting factor/ha.

If requested, evidence is to be furnished that the authorisation requirements relating to the application restriction laid down in application rule ‘Biodiv 1’ vis-à-vis the competent regulatory authority by presenting the aforementioned documentation.

The requirements of this application rule shall be complied with from 1 January 2020 onward.”

15 The terms of “biodiversity requirements” or “biodiv obligations”, on the other hand, should not be used because, in the authorisation process, distinction will be made between obligations (German: Auflagen) according to Section 36(3) sentence 1 PflSchG and application provisions (German: Anwendungsbestimmungen) according to Section 36(1) sentence 1 PflSchG.

16 H Hötker, C Brühl, C Buhk and R Oppermann, “Biodiversitätsflächen zur Minderung der Umweltauswirkungen von Pflanzenschutzmitteln” (2018) 65(12) <www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/1410/publikationen/2018-06-29_texte_53-2018_risikomanagement-kompensationsmassnahmen.pdf> (last accessed 10 May 2020) (UBA 2018).

17 ibid, p 11.

ibid

18 ibid.

ibid

19 IM Hilger, “Unzulässigkeit der Verpflichtung zur Schaffung von Biodiversitätsausgleichsflächen bei der Zulassung von Pflanzenschutzmitteln” (2017) 5 AUR 168, 171 (Hilger); H-G Kamann, “Nationale Alleingänge im Zulassungsverfahren für Pflanzenschutzmittel” (2019) 1 StoffR 13 (Kamann); A Koof, “Pflanzenschutzrechtliche Anwendungsbestimmungen zum Schutze der Biodiversität – Rechtliche Bewertung von Anwendungsbestimmungen zur Vorhaltung von Biodiversitätsausgleichsflächen” (2019) 8 AUR 286 (Koof).

20 Borwieck’s and Douhaire’s pieces were written on behalf of the UBA: K Borwieck, “Chemischer Pflanzenschutz und Biodiversität” (2017) ZUR 387; C Douhaire, “EU-Pflanzenschutzmittelverordnung: Zur Berücksichtigung indirekter Biodiversitätseffekte bei der Zulassung von Pflanzenschutzmitteln” (2017) ZUR 393.

21 BVL, “Technical notice of 28 February 2019” (2019) <www.bvl.bund.de/DE/04_Pflanzenschutzmittel/06_Fachmeldungen/2019/2019_02_28_Fa_Zulassungen_befristet_ohne_Biodiv.html?nn=1400938> (last accessed 10 May 2020).

22 VG Braunschweig, Court decision from 4 September 2019 – 9 A 11/19, ECLI:DE:VGBRAUN:2019:0904.9A11.19.00; VG Braunschweig, Court decision from 4 September 2019 – 9 A 18/19, ECLI:DE:VGBRAUN:2019:0904.9A18.19.00.

23 According to Art 267 TFEU, the ECJ shall, on request or referral to the court of a Member State, give preliminary rulings on the interpretation of the Treaties and on the validity and interpretation of acts of the institutions, bodies, offices or authorities of the Union (secondary legislation). The national courts are responsible for applying EU law. However, when an issue relating to the interpretation of the law is raised before a national court or tribunal, the court or tribunal may seek a preliminary ruling from the ECJ. If it is a court of last instance, it is compulsory to refer the matter to the Court.

24 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22, para 39; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22, para 47.

25 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22, para 40; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22, para 48.

26 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22, para 40; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22, para 48; BVL, “Press release of 5 April 2019” (2019) <www.bvl.bund.de/DE/08_PresseInfothek/01_FuerJournalisten_Presse/01_Pressemitteilungen/04_Pflanzenschutzmittel/2019/2019_04_05_PSM-Zulassung.html> (last accessed 10 May 2020); Hilger, supra, note 19, pp 168, 169.

27 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22, para 40; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22, para 48.

28 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22, para 41; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22, para 51; Hilger, supra, note 19, p 171.

29 Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, in Art 4 et sqq. provides a conclusive legal framework for the EU-wide authorisation of plant protection product active substances and, in Art 28 et sqq., the national authorisation procedure to be adopted by the Member States. The provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 are fleshed out in Regulation (EU) No 546/2011, EU Official Journal 2011, L 155/127 of 11 June 2011; Hilger, supra, note 19, 171.

30 EU Official Journal 2011, L 155/127 of 11 June 2011.

31 K Fischer, Stand von Wissenschaft und Technik im Pflanzenschutzrecht (Jürgen Fluck ed., Berlin, Lexxion 2004) p 29 et sqq.; V Kaus, “Abwägungsentscheidung bei der Zulassung von Pflanzenschutzmitteln” (2000) DVBl. 528, 531 et sqq.

32 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, EU Official Journal 2010 C 83/38 of 30 March 2010. By way of Art 6(1) and (3) TEU, the rights under the CFR form part of the primary legislation. In the authorisation of plant protection products pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, EU law in the meaning of Art 51(1) sentence 1 CFR is implemented by the national authorities, thus opening the scope of applicability of the CFR.

33 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22, para 49; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22, para 55; Hilger, supra, note 19, p 169; Kamann, supra, note 19, p 22.

34 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22, para 49; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22, para 55; Hilger, supra, note 19, p 169; Kamann, supra, note 19, p 22.

35 The UBA’s legal opinion fails to recognise the relevance of the CFR. According to Art 51(1) CFR, the Member States must abide by the CFR when they implement EU law. This also applies to the administrative execution of EU regulations in the form of administrative procedures at the national level. W Michl, “Art. 51 CFR” in R Streinz (ed.), EUV/AEUV (3rd edn, Munich, CH Beck 2018) Art 51 CFR recital 26.

36 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22, para 49; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22, para 55; Hilger, supra, note 19, p 169.

37 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 169; Kamann, supra, note 19, p 21.

38 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 170.

39 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 170.

40 An authorisation granted by another Member State under Art 29 Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 can be recognised under Art 40 Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 for the same plant protection product, the same use and in similar agricultural conditions in another Member State.

41 Art 33 et sqq. Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 stipulate the zonal assessment of plant protection product authorisation applications. Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 subdivides the EU into zones with comparable agricultural and ecological conditions: the North, Central and South zones. According to Art 36(1) Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, the zonal Rapporteur Member State (zRMS for short) is responsible for reviewing the application in the relevant zone. The other (ie concerned Member States (cMS for short)) will grant or refuse the authorisation as per Art 36(2) Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009 based on the reasoning of the zRMS’s assessments.

42 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 169.

43 UBA 2018, supra, note 16, p 28.

44 Examples include Section 15(2) Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG), Section 10(5) Wastewater Charges Act (AbwAG), Sections 3, 17(3a) Federal Immission Control Act (BImSchG) and Section 40 Waste Management and Product Recycling Act (KrWG). Also see M Kloepfer, Umweltrecht (4th edn, Munich, C.H. Beck 2016), Section 4 marginal notes 76–80 with reference to A Vosskuhle, Das Kompensationsprinzip (Heidelberg, Mohr Siebeck 1999) p 352.

45 Case C-6/64 Costa v ENEL [1964] ECR I-585 – published in [1964] NJW 237; Case C-11/70 Internationale Handelsgesellschaft v Einfuhr- und Vorratsstelle für Getreide und Futtermittel [1970] ECR I-825 – published in [1971] NJW 343; Case C-06/77 Staatliche Finanzverwaltung v Simmenthal [1978] ECR I-629 – published in [1978] NJW 1741; Federal Constitutional Court, Court decision from 6 July 2010 – 2 BvR 2661/06.

46 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22.

47 Case C-528/15 Police Czech Republic v Al Chodor [2017] ECR I-213; W Michl, “Art. 52 CFR” in R Streinz (ed.), EUV/AEUV (3rd edn, Munich, CH Beck 2018) Art. 52 CFR recital 12 with further references.

48 Federal Constitutional Court, Court ruling from 3 November 1982 – 1 BvR 210/79.

49 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22, para 49; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22, para 55.

50 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 169.

51 UBA 2016, supra, note 8, p 25.

52 UBA 2017, supra, note 11, p 13.

53 UBA 2017, supra, note 11, p 14.

54 BMEL, memorandum of 23 May 2017 (ref. no. 512-512-64210/0018), p 6.

55 UBA 2018, supra, note 16, p 37.

56 C Brühl, A Alscher and M Hahn, “Protection of Biodiversity in the Risk Assessment and Risk Management of Pesticides (Plant Protection Products & Biocides) with a Focus on Arthropods, Soil Organism and Amphibians” (2015) 12(5) <www.umweltbundesamt.de/sites/default/files/medien/378/publikationen/texte_76_2015_summary_protection_of_biodiversity_in_the_risk_management_of_pesticides.pdf> (last accessed 10 May 2020).

57 UBA 2018, supra, note 16.

58 UBA 2018, supra, note 16.

59 EU Official Journal 2013, L 347/549 of 20 December 2013.

60 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 171.

61 VG Braunschweig, Court decision from 30 November 2016 – 9 A 27/16, ECLI:DE:VGBRAUN:2016:1130.9A27.16.0A.

62 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 171.

63 A Koof, “Zulassung von Pflanzenschutzmitteln im zonalen Zulassungsverfahren” (2018) 5 StoffR 205; A Koof, “Pflanzenschutzrechtliche Anwendungsbestimmungen zum Schutze der Biodiversität – Rechtliche Bewertung von Anwendungsbestimmungen zur Vorhaltung von Biodiversitätsausgleichsflächen” (2019) 8 AUR 286.

64 European Parliament, “Die Vorteile des EU-Binnenmarkts” (2018) <www.europarl.europa.eu/news/de/headlines/society/20180208STO97415/die-vorteile-des-eu-binnenmarkts> (last accessed 10 May 2020).

65 Case C-280/93 Germany v Council [1994] ECR I-5039; I Härtel, “Art. 40 AUEV” in R Streinz (ed.), EUV/AEUV (3rd edn, Munich, CH Beck 2018) Art 40 AUEV recital 51.

66 The non-discrimination principle does apply to Member States. Case C-351/92 Graff v Hauptzollamt Köln-Rheinau [1994] ECR I-3373.

67 By way of Art 6 paras 1 and 3 TEU, the rights guaranteed by the CFR form part of primary legislation. In view of the authorisation of plant protection products pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 1107/2009, EU law in the meaning of Art 51(1) sentence 1 CFR is to be implemented by the national authorities, thus tapping into the scope of applicability of the CFR.

68 R Streinz, EUV/AEUV (3rd edn, Munich, CH Beck 2018) Art 17 CRF recital 6.

69 EU Official Journal 2013, L 347/487 of 20 December 2013.

70 Case C-101/12 Schaible v Land Baden-Württemberg [2013] ECR I-661, para 25; R Streinz, EUV/AEUV (3rd edn, Munich CH Beck 2018) Art 16 CRF recital 6.

71 Case C-154/04 and Case C-155/04 The Queen v Secretary of State for Health [2005] ECR I-6485, para 126; W Michl, “Art. 52 CFR” in R Streinz (ed.), EUV/AEUV (3rd edn, Munich CH Beck 2018) Art 52 CFR recital 26 et sqq.

72 Case C-280/93 Germany v Council [1994] ECR I-5039; I Härtel, “Art. 40 AUEV” in R Streinz (ed.), EUV/AEUV (3rd edn, Munich CH Beck 2018) Art 40 AUEV recital 51.

73 Julius-Kühn-Archiv, “Folgeabschätzung für die Landwirtschaft zum teilweisen oder vollständigen Verzicht auf die Anwendung von glyphosathaltigen Herbiziden in Deutschland” (2015) 156(48) <https://ojs.openagrar.de/index.php/JKA/article/view/5831/5575> (last accessed 10 May 2020).

74 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 169.

75 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 169.

76 VG Braunschweig, 9 A 11/19, supra, note 22; VG Braunschweig, 9 A 18/19, supra, note 22.

77 “In order to protect the species of the arable flora that are not to be controlled, the plant protection product [A] may only be applied to a maximum of 9/10 of the area to be treated. The untreated part of the area serves as a survival area for these species and must therefore be exempted from treatment with other agents with this application provision and the NT (new arable arthropods) during the course of cultivation.

The application of the agent must be carried out in a width of at least 20 m to the neighboring untreated partial area with a loss-reducing device, which is entered in the register ‘Loss-reducing devices’ of October 14, 1993 (Federal Gazette No. 205, p. 9780) in the currently valid version, at least in the drift reduction class … %. The untreated partial area preferably as an edge strip with minimum widths of 5 m and a reduced use of fertiliser.” UBA, Annex RMM of 23 December 2020.

78 “For the protection of insects and other arthropods that are not to be controlled, the plant protection product [A] may only be applied to a maximum of 9/10 of the treated area. The untreated part of the area serves as a survival area for these species and must therefore be exempted from treatment with other agents with this application provision and the NT (new arable flora) during the course of cultivation.

The application of the agent must be carried out in a width of at least 20 m to the neighboring untreated partial area with a loss-reducing device, which is entered in the register ‘Loss-reducing devices’ of October 14, 1993 (Federal Gazette No. 205, p. 9780) in the currently valid version, at least in the drift reduction class … %. The untreated partial area preferably as an edge strip with minimum widths of 5 m and a reduced use of fertiliser.” UBA, Annex RMM of 23 December 2020.

79 Federal Government, “Insekten besser schützen” <https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/aktuelles/aktionsprogramm-insektenschutz-1581358> (last accessed 10 May 2020).

80 Hilger, supra, note 19, p 169 et sqq.

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