An analysis of socio-economic driving forces in crop protection is proposed to improve the implementation of sustainable strategies. The analysis includes : (1) a classification of agricultural systems based on pesticide use intensity and safety, (2) an evaluation of the profitability of farming systems and identification of socio-economic factors that influence pesticide use and (3) formulation of policy recommendations. We find that for cereals and for fruit trees alike, crop yields are much higher for agricultural systems with high doses of pesticides. The safety of applied pesticides does not affect crop protection costs significantly. For cropping systems characterised by low-intensity in pesticide use, the application of safer products has a positive effect on reduction of crop protection costs.