Pesticide Specifications

John Unsworth
7th April 2010

Since 1971 the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has developed and published specifications for pesticides and their related formulations, as well an accompanying manual on the development of these specifications.


The purpose of these publications is to provide:


·         a normal standard of quality for the buying and selling of pesticides

·         assistance in the official approval and acceptance of pesticides

·         protection for responsible vendors against inferior products

·         a link between biological efficacy and specification requirements

·         an international point of reference


Thus FAO Pesticide Specifications represent an internationally recognised mechanism to define quality standards for pesticides. These specifications provide an international point of reference against which products can be measured and judged thereby preventing the trade sale and use of inferior products. As part of their registration requirements some countries require that products permitted for use comply with the relevant FAO specifications. FAO specifications may be extended to similar formulations produced by other manufacturers through a simple procedure for defining the equivalence of pesticide products.  The process for the establishing FAO Specifications is detailed in the Manual on the Development and Use of FAO Specifications for Plant Protection Products, including the New Procedure1,2. 


The specifications encompass the physical appearance of the material, its content of active ingredient and any relevant impurities and its physical properties. They do not normally include chemical characteristics of the formulants unless they influence physical characteristics such as pH, acidity and alkalinity. Nor do they include efficacy information.


Recommendations to FAO on the adoption, extension, modification or withdrawal of specifications are made by the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Specifications (JMPS). This body is composed of scientists collectively possessing expert knowledge of specifications. Other experts may be invited to meetings for particular reasons e.g. industry experts to provide additional information, but these outside experts do not participate in drafting the recommendations of the JMPS.


Specifications may become obsolete and their withdrawal considered. The reasons for this can be that the pesticides are no longer traded or that they are classified as posing serious health or environmental risks and their use is no longer recommended internationally3.


Pesticides used in public health came under the auspices of the WHO Pesticide Evaluation Scheme (WHOPES)4. This consists of a four phase evaluation and testing programme studying the safety, efficacy and operational acceptability of public health pesticides and developing specifications for quality control and international trade. 




1.      Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Pesticide Specifications



2.      Manual on Development and Use of FAO and WHO Specifications for Pesticides (1st Edition), Rome 2002





3.      FAO Pesticide Specifications – Review and Withdrawal of Old Specifications,  G. Vaagt, Pesticide Outlook December 2001, p. 239


4.      World Health Organization – WHO Pesticide evaluation Scheme (WHOPES)



Last modified 7th April 2010



Date added: 2010-05-08 01:04:01   
Last Updated 2010-05-10 04:06:08   
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