Pesticides are the latest counterfeit products to spread across the EU, Europol reported in a statement on Tuesday.
In their latest annual operation, dubbed Silver Ax VII, aimed at illegal trade, European law enforcement agencies seized more than a thousand tonnes of the illegal pesticide and arrested 10 people.
The operation also found evidence that while some of the counterfeit goods were smuggled into the EU from neighboring regions, other pesticides were manufactured locally on EU soil.
Unlike other counterfeit products, pesticides are of particular concern as they pose a public health hazard through their use in agricultural production.
“Counterfeit and illegal pesticides pose serious risks to the agricultural economy, the environment and our health. By fighting this illegal trade, we refute criminals’ perception that it is a profitable activity with light penalties, and ultimately fight for it Protecting our citizens,” said Christian Archambeau, Executive Director of the European Union Intellectual Property Office.
Europol said national authorities have noticed an increase in trafficking in illegal pesticides in southern Europe and the Black Sea region. It added that the number of cases of illegal pesticides sourced from Turkey has increased sharply, but China still remains the number one source country.
“The increase in confiscations of manufacturing equipment and raw materials shipped to Europe indicates an increase in counterfeiting activity within the EU. Law enforcement authorities in EU member states are now more likely to detect these fakes on EU soil,” the agency added.
In many cases, the products are sent to the EU in almost complete condition only for final processing.
“Despite their low price, illegal pesticides cause very high costs for the environment and public health, but also for agriculture. Counterfeit and illegal pesticides can harm farmers and their livelihoods and affect the conservation of bee colonies,” added Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol.