Since the existence of the first pesticide regulation in Europe (Directive 91/414), no strict criteria were used for approving pesticides in Europe (approved pesticides are listed on Annex I, the positive list). Any pesticide could get approval as long as they were voted by national representatives in the Standing Committee, The voting system is a complicated system with "qualified majorities" and "blocking minorities", and an appeal system in case the proposal by DG SANTE is rejected. No matter if a pesticide was a carcinogen or a full PBT (persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic) according to the Stockholm Convention, an EU approval was possible.
This is changed in the new pesticide Regulation 1107/2009. While not quite ideal (EU decisions are by nature a compromise), for the first time we have strict criteria for pesticides, the so-called “cut-off” criteria in Annex II, points 3.6.2 to 3.6.5 about classified mutagens, carcinogens, reproductive and endocrine disrupting pesticides. Point 3.7 is about PBT and POP's. The "cut-off" procedure will likely only be operational in 2016, also because Commission and member states are still discussing two types of derogations ("negligible exposure" and "serious danger for plant health") that might open ways to partly keep the harmful pesticides on the market.