Articles - Certification & Regulations

How do Pesticides effect timber certification?

This blog will look at how forest protection schemes such as FSC tackle the pesticide problem and how it is relevant to designers when considering timber options.

What are Pesticides?

Pesticides are chemical or biological substances that are sprayed to control pests or any unwanted species of plants.  If a pesticide is toxic, it can impact the soil and water quality of the sprayed area and adjacent areas.  Furthermore, if the chemicals enter the water system, certain chemicals have been known to cause breathing problems and hinder the development of the brain in children.

Therefore, it is vital to eliminate or at least substantially cut down the use of pesticides.  

FSC® and Pesticides

FSC® have a substantial pesticide policy which came into force in 2019.  In the long term, this paves the way for them to be completely prohibited.  However, in the short term, some are worse than others so FSC® have classified them into 3 categories – Restricted, Highly Restricted and Prohibited. 

FSC® members must try to use non-chemical methods wherever possible. However, if not then to use a restricted or highly restricted pesticide they must complete an environmental and social risk assessment (ESRA).  Completing an ESRA will allow FSC® members to identify and select the lowest-risk option. The lowest-risk option will have the least potential for social and environmental damage.

The only occasion when prohibited pesticides are allowed is in the case of an emergency or if ordered to do so by government authorities.  FSC® members are encouraged to use a restricted or highly restricted option in the absence of other solutions.  Well-known pesticides such as glyphosate and acetamiprid are in the restricted category.

UKTR and Pesticides

UKTR is less clear cut because for timber to be considered legal according to UKTR regulations it must have been harvested in compliance with the forestry regulations of the country of origin.  There is a variance in the quality and scope of the regulations in different countries.  For example, Gabon has restrictions on the use, but its regulations are known to be relatively well developed and regulated in comparison to other Congo basin countries.


In conclusion, FSC certification sets strong standards for reducing and restricting the use of harmful pesticides in forestry operations. The pesticide policy provides a framework to phase out the most toxic chemicals and promote more sustainable practices. For designers choosing timber, FSC-certified products offer assurance that pesticide use has been responsibly managed. UKTR does not directly address pesticides, so FSC represents a better option for those concerned about the impacts of pesticides on forest ecosystems and human health. Ultimately, the specification of FSC-certified timber allows designers to make a positive contribution by supporting responsible forest management.


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