Another massive fake pesticide haul as EU clamps down

Enforcement agencies in the EU have seized a massive 360 tonnes of illegal or counterfeit pesticides in their latest annual operation.

Operation Silver Axe III, coordinated by Europol with support from the EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), ran over the course of 20 days this year and saw checks being carried out at major seaports, airports and land borders, as well as production and repacking facilities in 27 participating countries.

The operation focused on imports of counterfeit pesticides, including infringements of intellectual property rights such as trademarks, patents and copyright, as well as targeting the illegal trade of pesticides. It netted three times the amount of illicit pesticide seized in last year’s operation.

Pesticides are one of the most regulated products in the world today, and can only be traded and used in the EU if the products are proven safe and authorised, said Europol in a statement.

Wil van Gemert, the agency’s deputy executive director operations, said that “the record volume of hazardous substances seized this year is an important step in stemming the flow of potentially lethal products into the EU marketplace.”

The 360 tonnes of pesticide seized is enough to spray 48,000 square kilometres, which is almost equivalent to the size of the UK.

The European Crop Protection Association’s director of public affairs, Graeme Taylor, said: “A series of recent reports have highlighted the growing threat from counterfeit and illegal pesticides: in the EU it is estimated that they make up almost 14 per cent of the market.” 

“This is not just an issue for the companies, whose products are being counterfeited, but more significantly poses a risk to health and the environment as they are not subject to any of the rigorous safety tests or regulation that authorised pesticides are,” he added.

Last year, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) published research showing that fake pesticides cost EU businesses around 14 per cent of their revenues each year, and cause an estimated 2,600 people their jobs.

That is just the economic cost, according to Paul Maier, director of the EUIPO’s Observatory on Infringements of IP Rights.

“The potentially harmful effects that counterfeit pesticides can have on the food chain, and consequently the health and safety of consumers, is extremely worrying.”

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