EU enforcers net another illegal pesticides haul

Around 11 tonnes of illicit pesticides that could wreak havoc with important pollinating species and harm human health were seized in Bulgaria earlier this month.

Some of the substances seized are banned in the EU altogether due to their danger for human health and the environment, according to the EU’s anti-fraud office OLAF, which carried out the operation jointly with the Bulgarian authorities.

Among the pesticides found were thiamethoxam and imidacloprid, which can harm domesticated honey bees and wild pollinators, as well as chlorpyrifos which can be neurotoxic and have adverse neurodevelopmental effects in children.

It is another example of the rising tide of illicit and counterfeit pesticides in Europe, with a Europol investigation last year suggesting there is increased production within the EU, adding to the longstanding problem of illegal products imported from China and other countries like Turkey.

In this case, the investigators suspect that the illicit pesticides were smuggled into the EU. Other violations that OLAF and the Bulgarian authorities found were expired products, unlabelled items or labels that did not respect the obligation of including a translation into the local language.

Ville Itälä, Director-General of OLAF, said: "Fraud is not an abstract concept – fraud can harm humans and the environment alike. Some of the illicit substances that we seized together with the Bulgarian authorities are very dangerous for human health and for bees. I would like to thank colleagues in the Bulgarian authorities for the good cooperation that allowed for this important result. Together, we are stronger and we protect Europeans and our environment."

Further enquiries into the matter are ongoing. In order to protect their confidentiality as well as procedural rights and personal data, OLAF said it was unable to make any further comments at this stage.

Last year, the Europol-coordinated Operation Silver Axe VII resulted in the seizure of 1,150 tonnes of illegal pesticides at airports and other EU market entry points.

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