shutterstock_547553083_jinning-li
shutterstock_547553083_Jinning Li
28 July 2022Staff Writer

Europol operation seizes 1,150 tonnes of fake pesticides

Operation Silver Axe focused on ports and airports | Fake pesticides “harm farmers and their livelihoods” | Proliferation of counterfeits “deeply concerning” | EUIPO | Europol.

A Europol-coordinated operation has led to ten arrests, the seizure of 1,150 tons of illegal and counterfeit pesticides and the targeting of a factory where pesticides were being counterfeited.

The seventh edition  Operation Silver Axe—Europol’s annual operation targeting illegal pesticides, which involved law enforcement authorities from 31 countries—focused on ports, airports and other entry points.

During the operation, authorities detected an increase of the trafficking of illegal pesticides in the south of Europe and the Black Sea area.

While the number of cases of illegal pesticides sourced in Turkey had increased sharply during this operation, China remains the top source of illegal pesticides.

The trafficking of herbicide, insecticide and fungicide containing banned substances remains steady, but the operation also revealed that the counterfeiting of commonly used brands for these products is now growing.

Catherine De Bolle, Europol’s executive director,  said: “Despite their low price, unauthorised plant protection products have a very high cost for both the environment and public health, but also the agricultural industry. Fake and illegal pesticides can harm farmers, and their livelihoods, and damage the maintenance of bee colonies.”

According to Europol, the increase in seizures of production equipment and raw materials shipped to Europe suggests a rise in counterfeiting activities within the EU.

Law enforcement agencies in EU member states have detected a number of modus operandi. This includes the import of almost finalised products in containers resembling well-known brands and the import of illegal ingredients for the production of pesticides.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies have found another modus operandi—the misuse of the parallel trading system, which eases the approval procedures of pesticides sold within the EU.

This parallel system allows a plant protection product authorised in one member state to be introduced, placed on the market or used in another member, subject to the granting of a parallel trade permit.

Europol has warned that criminals are abusing this system by introducing illegally produced plant protection products to a member state, while fraudulently claiming that they have already been approved in a different member state, removing the need for further approvals.

The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the European Anti-Fraud Office, the European Commission’s DG SANTE, CropLife Europe and CropLife International supported the operation.

Christian Archambeau, EUIPO’s executive director, said: “The damage caused by counterfeit products, touching every possible type of goods and sectors, is deeply concerning, and clearly calls for coordinated action, through operations like Silver Axe.

"Counterfeit and illegal pesticides pose serious risks to the agricultural economy, the environment and our health. In fighting this illicit trade, we are disproving criminals’ perception that it is a profitable activity with light penalties, and ultimately fighting to protect our citizens.”

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