Plant protection products used in agriculture and forestry considerably increase the chemicalisation of the environment because these products are applied on purpose across extensive areas in the environment to control weeds, diseases and pests. The broader-scale use of plant protection products began in the 1950s, which is when synthetic organochlorine compounds were launched in the Finnish market. The past 60 years have seen the development of a vast variety of new chemical plant protection products. The environmental effects of these products can be seen in treated fields, but the substances can also migrate, for example with rainwater, elsewhere in the environment, causing effects outside the treated area too.
Because these substances have been made toxic to the organisms they are used to control, they are usually also harmful to other organisms. Therefore their import and sales require pre-inspection and authorisation under the Plant Protection Products Act. Authorisation decisions are made by Tukes. In many cases the condition set for authorisation is that restrictions, warnings or precautions must be displayed on product packaging to prevent environmental damage. Products that are toxic to aquatic organisms may not be used within a specific safety clearance from water bodies, while those harmful to soil organisms may not be used repeatedly in the same field and products that can be mobile may not be used in groundwater areas.
Tukes compiles annual statistics concerning the sales volumes of plant protection products.
The Finnish use of plant protection products per hectare still remains below the rates seen in Central and Southern Europe because our cooler climate reduces disease pressure. On the other hand global warming is increasing the survival rates of harmful pests and diseases over the Finnish winter, which will result in an increase in the need for control measures.