Pesticide Legislation

The use of pesticides in the South African forestry and forest products industry is well regulated. While their use is governed locally through legislation, which in turn is guided by international conventions; most forestry companies in South Africa have been voluntarily certified through one or more certification schemes. These schemes can sometimes impose their own pesticide governance, over and above legislation.

As a result, the range of pesticides available, the dosage quotas and limits and application methods are strictly governed, and to an extent, restricted. This is why it is critical to understand the laws and certification requirements around pesticide use as this ensures timber plantations are managed responsibly, sustainably and in line with local and international governance and certification requirements.


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Fertiliser, Farm Feed, Agricultural Remedies & Stock Remedies Act (No. 36 of 1947)

LINK: Fertilizers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies & Stock Remedies Act (No. 36 of 1947)

To provide for the appointment of a Registrar for the registration of fertilizers, farm feeds, agricultural remedies, stock remedies, sterilizing plants and pest control operators; to regulate or prohibit the importation, sale, acquisition, disposal or use of fertilizers, farm feeds, agricultural remedies and stock remedies; to provide for the designation of technical advisers and analysts; and to provide for matters incidental there to.

Key points that the act is responsible for include:

  • Evaluating and registering fertilizers, animal feeds, pesticides and stock remedies for use in South Africa, having satisfied itself that such products are efficacious, and safe for humans, animals, crops and the environment;
  • Assessing the competency and registration of pest control operators (PCO);
  • Assessing the suitability and registration of sterilizing plants;
  • Monitoring compliance with legislation.

International conventions:

The Stockholm Convention

The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) is a global treaty that protects human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment.

Exposure to POPs can lead to serious health effects including certain cancers, birth defects, dysfunctional immune and reproductive systems, greater susceptibility to disease and damages to the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Given their long range transport, no one government acting alone can protect its citizens or its environment from POPs, making this is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiative.

Rotterdam Convention

Formally the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, this is a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibilities in relation to importation of hazardous chemicals. The convention promotes open exchange of information and calls on exporters of hazardous chemicals to use proper labeling, include directions on safe handling, and inform purchasers of any known restrictions or bans.

Signatory nations can decide whether to allow or ban the importation of chemicals listed in the treaty, and exporting countries are obliged to make sure that producers within their jurisdiction comply.


Occupational Health & Safety Act (No. 85 of 1993)

LINK: Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993

To provide for the health and safety of persons at work and for the health and safety of persons in connection with the use of plant and machinery; the protection of persons other than persons at work against hazards to health and safety arising out of or in connection with the activities of persons at work; to establish an advisory council for occupational health and safety; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

International Conventions:

International Labour Organisation (ILO)

The ILO is a United Nations agency promoting social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights, bringing together governments, employers and workers representatives of 187 member states, to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men.

National Water Act (No. 3 of 1998)

LINK: National Water Act (No. 36 of 1998)

The South African Government is responsible for the equitable allocation and use of the scarce and unevenly distributed water resources of the nation. The aim of water resource management is to ensure the sustainable use of water through the protection of the quality of water resources for the benefit of all water users. There is a need for the integrated management of all aspects of water resources and the delegation of management functions to a regional or catchment level where appropriate, to enable everyone to participate.


National Environmental Management Act (No. 107 of 1998)

LINK: National Environmental Management Act (No. 107 of 1998)

LINK: National Environmental Mananagement Biodiveristy Act (No. 10 of 2004)

LINK: National Environmental Management Waste Act (No. 59 of 2008)

To provide for co-operative, environmental governance by establishing principles for decision-making on matters affecting the environment, institutions that will promote co-operative governance and procedures for coordinating environmental functions exercised by organs of state; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

Key points that the act is responsible for include:

  • Developing a framework for integrating good environmental management into all development activities;
  • Promoting certainty with regard to decision-making by organs of state on matters affecting the environment;
  • Establishing principles guiding the exercise of functions affecting the environment;
  • Ensuring that organs of state maintain the principles guiding the exercise of functions affecting the environment;
  • Establishing procedures and institutions to facilitate and promote co-operative government and intergovernmental relations;
  • Establishing procedures and institutions to facilitate and promote public participation in environmental governance;
  • Enforcing by the State and that the law should facilitate the enforcement of environmental laws by civil society.

Extensions of this act applicable to pesticide usage:

National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (No. 10 of 2004)

To provide for the management and conservation of South Africa’s biodiversity within the framework of the National Environmental Management Act (No. 107 of 1998); the protection of species and ecosystems that warrant national protection; the sustainable use of indigenous biological resources; the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from bio-prospecting involving indigenous biological resources; the establishment and functions of a South African National Biodiversity Institute; and for matters connected therewith.

National Environmental Management: Waste Act (No. 59 of 2008)

To reform the law regulating waste management in order to protect health and the environment by providing reasonable measures for the prevention of pollution and ecological degradation and for securing ecologically sustainable development; to provide for institutional arrangements and planning matters; to provide for national norms and standards for regulating the management of waste by all spheres of government; to provide for specific waste management measures; to provide for the licensing and control of waste management activities; to provide for the remediation of contaminated land; to provide for the national waste information system; to provide for compliance and enforcement; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

International conventions

Basel Convention

The Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, usually known as the Basel Convention, is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations and, specifically, to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs). The convention is also intended to minimise the amount and toxicity of wastes generated, to ensure their environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation, and to assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate.


Disaster Management Act (No. 57 of 2002)

LINK: Disaster Management Act (No. 57 of 2002)

To provide an integrated and coordinated disaster management policy that focuses on preventing or reducing the risk of disasters, mitigating the severity of disasters, emergency preparedness, rapid and effective response to disasters and post-disaster recovery. The act also ensures the establishment of national, provincial and municipal disaster management centres and disaster management volunteers.

Disaster is defined as a progressive or sudden, widespread or localised, natural or human-caused occurrence which causes or threatens to cause:

  • Death or disease;
  • Damage to property, infrastructure or the environment;
  • Significant disruption to the life of a community;
  • Or is of a magnitude that exceeds the ability of those affected by the disaster to cope with its effects using their own resources.


Hazardous Substances Act (No. 15 of 1973)

LINK:  Hazardous Substances Act (No. 15 of 1973)

Hazardous Substances Act is probably the most important chemical regulation in South Africa. It controls the production, import, use, handling and disposal of hazardous substances. Under the Act, hazardous substances are defined as substances that are toxic, corrosive, irritant, strongly sensitizing, flammable and pressure generating under certain circumstances and may injure, cause ill-health or even death in humans.

Hazardous substances are classified into 4 groups )see below). Anyone who intends to sell or distribute group 1 hazardous substances must apply for a license from health authority first.:

  • Group I: industrial chemicals (IA) and pesticides (IB)
  • Group II: nine classes of wastes excluding Class 1: explosives and Class 7: radioactive substances
  • Group III: electronic products and group
  • Group IV: radioactive substances
Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®)

LINK: FSC Pesticides Policy

Their mission is to ‘promote environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable management of the world’s forests’.

To this end the body has published a global strategy with five goals:

  • Advance globally responsible forest management
  • Ensure equitable access to the benefits of FSC systems
  • Ensure integrity, credibility and transparency of the FSC system
  • Create business value for products from FSC certified forests
  • Strengthen the global network to deliver on the above goals

These goals are being promoted by activities, which are managed and developed, through six programme areas: forests, chain of custody, social policy, monitoring and evaluation, quality assurance and ecosystem services.

It claims that forests, managed to its standards, offer benefits to both local and wider communities and these are said to include cleaner air and water, and a contribution to mitigating the effects of climate change. Directly or indirectly, FSC addresses issues such as illegal logging, deforestation and global warming and some reports indicate positive effects on economic development, environmental conservation, poverty alleviation and social and political empowerment.

The display of the FSC logo signifies that the product comes from responsible sources — environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable. The FSC label is used on a wide range of timber and non-timber products, from paper, books and furniture, to medicine and jewellery, and aims to give consumers the option of supporting responsible forestry.

FSC® Pesticides Policy

A key element of the FSC Pesticides Policy is the identification and avoidance of highly hazardous pesticides in FSC certified forests. The listing of a pesticide as ‘highly hazardous’ does not mean that the pesticide cannot be used, but in order to reduce the risk of negative environmental or human health impacts, these pesticides must be avoided and only used in FSC certified forests if there is no viable alternative. Non-chemical methods or less hazardous pesticides shall be preferred, and ultimately the use of the most hazardous pesticides should be eliminated.

Forest owners and managers wishing to use highly hazardous pesticides must justify such use through a specific process which includes consultation with social, environmental and economic stakeholders. FSC policy in relation to the use of pesticides in FSC-certified forests and plantations aims to minimise the negative environmental and social impacts of pesticide use while promoting economically viable management.

Key points for implementing these requirements:

  • Identification and avoidance of ‘highly hazardous’ pesticides
  • Promotion of ‘non-chemical’ methods of pest management as an element of an integrated pest management strategy
  • Appropriate use of the pesticides that are used


South African Forestry Assurance Scheme (SAFAS) and Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC)


The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is an international non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to promoting Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) through independent third-party certification.

They work throughout the entire forest supply chain to promote good practice in the forest and to ensure that timber and non-timber forest products are produced with respect for the highest ecological, social and ethical standards.

Their mission: “We are committed to conserving forests and their invaluable biodiversity, and the communities and families that own, work and live in and around forests.”

PEFC bases its understanding of Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) on the definition adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which defines SFM as: “The stewardship and use of forests and forest lands in a way, and at a rate, that maintains their biodiversity, productivity, regeneration capacity, vitality and their potential to fulfil, now and in the future, relevant ecological, economic and social functions, at local, national, and global levels, and that does not cause damage to other ecosystems.”

Under this definition, to achieve sustainability, forest management practices must result in outcomes that are

  • economically viable
  • ecologically sound, and
  • socially just.

These three pillars cannot be divided, compartmentalized, or addressed individually. They are a unified whole. Without all three, forests cannot be protected, family foresters cannot thrive, forest-dependent communities cannot exist, illegal logging will not be abated, and carbon emissions will not be mitigated.

Forest certification provides a mechanism to address these and ensure that wood and wood-based products reaching the marketplace have been sourced from sustainably managed forests.

However, PEFC recognizes that the diversity of forests and of the communities that depend upon them for their livelihoods means that a “one-size-fits-all” standard is not the solution. Furthermore, unless all concerned stakeholders are involved in sustainable management policy formulation and implementation, sustainable forest management cannot be achieved.

PEFC therefore acts as an umbrella organisation, who work by endorsing national forest certification systems developed through multi-stakeholder processes and tailored to local priorities and conditions.

With 39 endorsed national certification systems and more than 300 million hectares of certified forests, PEFC is the world’s largest forest certification system. Each national forest certification system undergoes a rigorous third-party assessment against PEFC’s unique sustainability benchmarks to ensure consistency with international requirements.


The South African Forestry Accreditation Scheme (SAFAS) is a National Certification System that has been endorsed by the PEFC. The SAFAS standard is based on the Government’s Principles, Criteria, Indicators and Standards (PCI&S) for sustainable forest management.

The objective of this system is to have a National Certification System that is appropriate to all scales of plantation forests. In South Africa, about 80 percent of the plantation area has been certified under the FSC system and the most of this area is owned or managed by large organizations. As the demand for certified products increases, both abroad and locally, certification could become a trade barrier to smaller management units. The complexity and costs of managing plantations under the FSC system precludes many smaller operations from achieving certification, this could lead to a shortage of timber to meet market demand. It was felt that a National Standard that is more sensitive to the needs of smaller scale operations is required.

It is hoped, with both systems in place, certification will be opened up to all South African forestry owners and managers. This will help all industry players to meet the future demands for certified timber, as well as realise the social, environmental, cultural and economic benefits that certification brings.

Unlike the FSC, SAFAS currently has no specific pesticide policy but rather requires that as a minimum the legal requirements of the country are met and upheld. In addition to this, SAFAS requires an IPM programme to be in place ensuring pesticides are only used as a last resort.

International Standards Organisation (ISO)


ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 162 national standards bodies. Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges. International Standards make things work. They give world-class specifications for products, services and systems, to ensure quality, safety and efficiency. They are instrumental in facilitating international trade. ISO has published 21571 international standards and related documents, covering almost every industry, from technology, to food safety, to agriculture and healthcare. ISO International Standards impact everyone, everywhere. ISO International Standards ensure that products and services are safe, reliable and of good quality. For business, they are strategic tools that reduce costs by minimizing waste and errors and increasing productivity. They help companies to access new markets, level the playing field for developing countries and facilitate free and fair global trade. Our standards are developed by the people that need them, through a consensus process. Experts from all over the world develop the standards that are required by their sector. This means they reflect a wealth of international experience and knowledge.

Two of the most popular standards are ISO 9001 Quality Management and ISO 14001 Environmental Management. These are also two standards that are commonly used in the industry.