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Europol warns of rising fake pesticide trafficking in EU

29 July 2022

The production and distribution of fake pesticides are on the rise in the EU, says the bloc's law enforcement agency, Europol. The agency confiscated 1,150 tonnes of illegal and fake pesticides under Operation Silver Axe VII, the seventh annual operation co-ordinated by it in 2022. That follows the haul of 1,203 tonnes in 2021 and the record of 1,346 tonnes in 2020. Ten people were arrested during the latest operation.

The exercise was conducted between January 25th and April 25th. It involved law enforcement authorities from 31 countries. Those included 25 EU member states and six non-EU co-operating countries including Brazil, Colombia, Norway, Ukraine, the UK and the US.

Europol's Silver Axe enforcement initiative was begun in 2015 to respond to the trafficking of illegal pesticides. It has seized a total of 4,921 tonnes of illegal pesticides ever since.

Although China remains the primary source of illegal pesticides, the latest operation unveiled an increase in trafficking in the south of Europe and the Black Sea area, particularly in Turkey. Europol found that fake pesticides were being imported into the EU packaged as well-known brands to be sold on the black market under falsified labeling.

The agency also noted a rise in raw materials and pesticide production equipment shipped to Europe, suggesting that more and more counterfeit products are manufactured in EU countries. In a rare operation this year, Bulgarian authorities targeted a manufacturing location and seized illegal pesticides and counterfeit packaging materials.

The operation revealed that criminal networks are abusing the EU's parallel trading system, allowing pesticides authorised in one member state to be marketed in another without further formalities. Europol detected cases of illegally produced pesticides being sold in a member state by falsely claiming that they had been approved in a different EU country.

Europol's Executive director Catherine De Bolle warned about the high costs to the environment and public health of unauthorised pesticides, including harming farmers and bee colonies. "Taking such unregulated and potentially dangerous products off the market contributes to a safer and healthier environment for EU citizens," she insisted.

Oliver de Matos, director of industry association CropLife Europe, claimed that fake pesticides are threatening the EU's sustainable agriculture goals and the objectives of the Farm to Fork Strategy. "Silver Axe is an important initiative that we are proud to support. We need to continue to communicate about these products, so both farmers and legitimate businesses recognise and reject criminal offerings that jeopardise the sustainable production of food," he said.

This article was published by S&P Global Commodity Insights and not by S&P Global Ratings, which is a separately managed division of S&P Global.


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