Research news

Accelerating the transition to sustainable pest management in agriculture

Agricultural land in the analysis (photo Matjaž Glavan)

Publish Date: 02.06.2021

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals: 1 No poverty, 2 Zero hunger, 3 Good health and well-being, 6 Clean water and sanitation, 12 Responsible consumption and production, 14 Life below water, 15 Life on land, 17 Partnerships for the goals (Indicators)

Pesticide use poses a risk to human and environmental health. Recent research suggests a link between exposure and increased risk of health problems such as Parkinson's disease, reproductive and developmental disorders and cancer, while at the same time affecting soil, water and biodiversity health.

Slika 4 Kmetijska zemljišča v analizi

Agricultural land in the analysis (photo Matjaž Glavan)

The newly launched project SPRINT (Sustainable Plant Protection Transition: A Global Health Approach,, supported by the Horizon 2020 programme, consists of a consortium of research institutes from 11 European countries, as well as colleagues in Argentina and UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The University of Ljubljana cooperates with three members, the Biotechnical Faculty, the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. In Slovenia, 12 farms (6 organic and 6 conventional) from Ljubljana, Trebnje and Brežice are participating in the project. SPRINT will develop a Global Health Risk Assessment Toolbox to assess the impact of pesticides on human health and adverse effects on plants, animals and ecosystems. SPRINT will pool knowledge and data from across Europe to find ways to improve the sustainable use of pesticides.

Researchers will find ways to support the transition to more sustainable crop protection by working with farmers and policy makers. Professor Violette Geissen from Wageningen University, who leads the SPRINT consortium, said, "I am delighted to launch this project, which will answer many questions that are of vital importance to European citizens. We have brought together scientists who have long-standing expertise on this topic to share. I am confident that we can help regulators and policy makers to make well-informed decisions to introduce more sustainable solutions to agricultural practises. It's not an easy time to start a new project, but the current problems with pesticide use mean we can't falter. Together we look forward to making a meaningful contribution to the EU Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies."(2)

Violette Geissen - Foto_Volkskrant

Professor Violette Geissen from Wageningen University (photo Volkskrant)

The EU's 'From farm to fork' strategy sets targets for reducing pesticide use at EU level for the first time. The strategy sets a target to reduce the use and risk of chemical pesticides by 50% and to reduce the use of more hazardous pesticides by 50% by 2030. Pesticides are not allowed in sensitive areas such as urban green spaces, which will have a positive impact on pollinators. In addition, at least 25% of agricultural land in the EU is to be included in organic farming by 2030. 

Matjaž Glavan (photo Klemen Razinger)

Matjaž Glavan




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Matjaž Glavan ()


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Invitation to participate in the research

Farm neighbours and general consumers will also be included in the survey. If you (consumers) would like to take part in the study and cheque your exposure to pesticides and your health, now is the time to apply. We will be conducting extensive sampling (blood, urine, faeces, and nasal swabs) in central Slovenia in late June 2021. The application form to participate in the survey can be found at this link: Applications will be accepted until June 15, 2021. The number of available places is limited to 24.

Stakeholders from ministries, companies, interest groups and NGOs are invited to participate with their experiences in the project SPRINT. To register, please follow the link:

Wageningen University and Research is organising an online stakeholder event on Tuesday 22 June 2021 at 3pm. More information and the agenda can be found at these links (meeting invitation, agenda).. Register for the event at this link - SIGN UP.



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