Fake pesticide threat prompts police into Scotland farm visits

The growing threat of counterfeit pesticides coming out of Europe will see police and other bodies step up their campaign to keep Scotland free of these dangerous fakes.

In a new effort directed by Europol and in-line with Trading Standards, HMRC and the Health and Safety Executive, police officers in Scotland will be raising awareness and visiting farms and suppliers to warn of the threats these chemicals pose to farmers and staff working in the agricultural sector.

This comes as amid a growing use of illegal and counterfeit forms of the chemical in Europe, where as much 10 per cent of all pesticides on the continent are thought to be illicit or fake, and have not undergone any form of safety checks.

These have already resulted in the loss of farmland worth €3m (£2.55m) in Poland, and the UK, which has been relatively untouched by the problem, is trying to keep its guard up as the threat level grows.

Europol is also trying to lower the risk across the continent, as these can cause damage to both humans and the environment, and note that the fakes are often run by organised criminal gangs.

It estimates that the global market for counterfeit and illegal pesticides is £4.4bn Euros.

This also comes after a new study released last month showed that fake pesticides cost EU businesses around 14 per cent of their revenues each year, and cause an estimated 2,600 people their jobs.

Chief Superintendent Barry McEwan, head of Police Scotland's safer communities, said: "Counterfeit and illicit pesticides have been identified in parts of Europe as an emerging threat posed by organised criminals; however, to date none have been found in Scotland.

"We are fortunate in Scotland that the Scottish Anti Illicit Trade Group (SAITG), Police Scotland and all agencies working within the Scottish Crime Campus have recognised there is potential for the same organised criminals to exploit our communities. We are keen to prevent this happening and the public should be in no doubt that the same criminal networks who import, distribute and sell counterfeit and illicit goods in our communities may see a commercial opportunity and explore it for profit without considering the harm.

"Our activity will focus on joint prevention, education visits across agricultural communities, ports, producers, distributors and buyers of these products limiting the threat to Scottish businesses and ultimately protecting the health and wellbeing of the Scottish public."

Other operations also active in England, with the Thames Valley Police currently investigating the distribution and use of illegal pesticides, including counterfeits, across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire in a crack-down known as Operation Silo.

Operation Silo says it is finding evidence of increasing fake pesticides in the UK and note, as Europol does, that it is being pushed by gangs – but it also says that these gangs finance "other serious crimes such as human trafficking and international terrorism" through the funds gained from its illegal sales, putting an extra emphasis on the need to halt this revenue stream.

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