Europol warns of increasing trade in counterfeit pesticides in the EU


The production and distribution of counterfeit pesticides is on the rise in the EU, says the bloc’s law enforcement agency Europol. The agency seized 1,150 tons of illegal and counterfeit pesticides as part of Operation Silver Ax VII, the seventh annual operation it is coordinating in 2022. This follows 1,203 tonnes carried in 2021 and a record 1,346 tonnes in 2020. Ten people were arrested in the most recent operation.

The exercise was conducted between January 25 and April 25. Law enforcement agencies from 31 countries were involved. This included 25 EU Member States and six cooperating non-EU countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Norway, Ukraine, the UK and the US.

Europol’s ‘Silver Axe’ enforcement initiative has been launched in 2015 to respond to the trade in illegal pesticides. Since then, it has seized a total of 4,921 tons of illegal pesticides.

Although China remains the main source of illegal pesticides, the latest operation revealed an increase in illegal trade in southern Europe and the Black Sea region, particularly Turkey. Europol found that counterfeit pesticides were being imported into the EU packaged as well-known brands to be sold on the black market under false labels.

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

The operation revealed that criminal networks are abusing the EU’s parallel trade system by allowing pesticides authorized in one member state to be marketed in another without further formality. Europol detected cases of illegally manufactured pesticides being sold in one Member State by falsely claiming that they were authorized in another EU country.

Europol Executive Director Catherine De Bolle warned of the high environmental and public health costs of unauthorized pesticides, including harm to farmers and bee colonies. “Removing such unregulated and potentially dangerous products from the market contributes to a safer and healthier environment for EU citizens,” she stressed.

Oliver de Matos, director of industry association CropLife Europe, claimed counterfeit pesticides are threatening the EU’s sustainable agriculture goals and the goals of the Farm to Fork strategy. “Silver Ax is an important initiative that we are proud to support. We must continue to communicate about these products so that both farmers and legitimate businesses recognize and reject criminal offers that endanger the sustainable production of food,” he said.

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


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