Pesticides applied to crops can enter soil and surface waters and percolate down into groundwater. This can lead to biodiversity loss in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, particularly of insect species not targeted by the pesticides.

Pollination, the formation and composition of soil, and drinking water quality can all suffer as a result. Pesticide residues in food may also pose a risk to human health while residues in animal feed can both harm the animals and enter the food chain. Particular concerns have been raised about the health impacts of human exposure to pesticides with endocrine-disrupting properties and the associated costs to human health.

According to Eurostat, some 400 000 tonnes of pesticides were sold in the EU in 2014, with the largest markets being Spain, France and Italy. The best-selling pesticides were fungicides and bactericides. The EU Directive on Sustainable Use of Pesticides seeks to reduce the risks and impacts of pesticide use on human health and the environment. It also aims to promote the use of integrated pest management and of alternative approaches or techniques, such as non-chemical alternatives to pesticides. EU Member States have drawn up national actions plans to implement the Directive.