Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) (as amended)

Applies to the whole UK

Title: Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) (as amended)

Category: UK Regulation

Date: 1986 (amended 1997)

Reference: SI 1986/1510 (1997/188 [Full text])

General Description:

Amended by the Food Safety Act 1990, and the Control of Pesticides (Amendment) Regulations 1997.

This Regulation prohibits the advertisement, sale, supply, storage or use of any pesticide unless ministers have given an approval in relation to that pesticide and a consent to the activity and unless the conditions of both the approval and consent have been met. Ministers may give their approvals for:

  1. an experimental permit, to enable testing and development to be carried out;
  2. a provisional approval for a stipulated period so as to satisfy the ministers' outstanding data requirements;
  3. a full approval for an unstipulated period.

This approval may be subject to certain conditions and may be revoked at anytime.

Does not apply to:

  1. certain organisms used for destroying or controlling pests;
  2. substances, the use or sale of which within the United Kingdom is controlled under certain enactments, including the Food Safety Act 1990;
  3. substances prepared or used for disinfecting or sterilising purposes;
  4. certain substances used in laboratories;
  5. pesticides:
    1. Used in adhesive pastes, decorative paper or textiles;
    2. Intended solely for export;
    3. Used as part of a manufacturing process or in insect repellent, metal working fluid, paint, water supply systems or swimming pools.

See also the Food and Environmental Protection Act (FEPA)


Some pesticides are extremely hazardous to fish and other aquatic organisms and can be lethal at concentrations as low as one part per billion. In order to ensure that water is not polluted by spray pesticide drift some pesticide products have a statutory buffer zone requirement. This is an area between the watercourse and the target spray area within which directly applied pesticide spray must not be allowed to fall. The statutory buffer zone width was, up until March 1999, a standard 6 metres for ground crop sprayers.

As part of the 1986 Control of Pesticides Regulations (COPR) new arrangements have been introduced which seek to maintain the existing high level of protection of water by increasing the effectiveness of enforcement while, at the same time, reducing the impact of pesticide regulation on farming operations by introducing a level of flexibility.

Details of the new arrangements both horizontal boom sprayers and broadcast air-assisted sprayers can be found in the EMA Technical System but include:

  • The introduction of 'Local Environmental Risk Assessments (LERAPS)' for certain products which, if operating and environmental conditions permit, allow a reduction in the standard buffer zone width.

- When using a horizontal boom sprayer, the LERAP must consider the product, dose rate, spray equipment used and the size of the watercourse. The LERAP must be recorded and be available for inspection.

- When using a broadcast air-assisted sprayer, the LERAP must consider the product, dose rate, spray equipment used and the presence of living windbreaks. The LERAP must be recorded and be available for inspection.

  • A new method of measuring the buffer zone width. The buffer zone is now measured from the top of the bank to the end of the spray boom rather than from the waters edge as was the case previously.
  • A classification system for pesticides with a buffer zone requirement and when used with a boom sprayer has been introduced. Two classes are recognised: Category A are products containing organophosphates or synthetic pyrethroid insecticides. No reduction in the buffer zone width is permitted for these products. However, due to the new buffer zone width measuring requirements the statutory width is now 5 m. Category B pesticides are all other products with a buffer zone requirement. For these products a LERAP is permitted.
  • For air-assisted sprayers the minimum permissible buffer zone is 5 metres. Because of the variability of the statutory buffer width with pesticide product the LERAPS gives the width reduction permitted rather than the final width as is the case with the boom sprayer arrangements.

Further details are available from PSD.

Update: June 1998 - A consultation paper issued is proposing to change the regulations which currently allow certain classes of users to be exempt from holding pesticide Certificates of Competence. The paper is suggesting that all users will require the certificate but a transition period of three years will be introduced to allow currently exempted users to obtain them.

Pertinence to Agriculture: Pesticides, Pest Control

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