Record quantity of illegal pesticides seized from European market
During its annual operation, Europol has seized 1,346 tonnes of illegal pesticides from across the European market.
Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation, has coordinated the fifth edition of operation Silver Axe which saw twice the amount of illegal products seized compared to 2019’s operation. The yearly law enforcement operation, which targets the counterfeit and illicit trade of pesticides, took place between 13 January and 25 April 2020 and involved 32 countries.
Law enforcement authorities carried out inspections on land and sea borders, inland marketplaces and parcel deliveries, checking more than 3,000 tonnes of pesticides. Altogether, 260 investigations were opened, two individuals were arrested, and 1,346 tonnes of illegal pesticides were seized. Currently, eight investigations are still ongoing in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Slovenia and Switzerland.
A European study has estimated that between 10 and 14 percent of the EU pesticide market is affected by this illegal trade and criminals are netting up to €70 for every trafficked kilogram of illegal pesticides. Some of the organised crime groups trafficking pesticides are also involved in other illegal activities such as trafficking counterfeited cigarettes and illegally trading pharmaceuticals, according to Europol.
The abuse in the trade of illegal pesticides and herbicides is said to vary from trafficking counterfeit or mislabelled products to the irregular import of banned substances such as chlorpyrifos.
Some successes from the recent fifth Silver Axe operation included:
- Non-authorised pesticides to Cyprus from Switzerland intercepted in Belgium
- Seizing non-labelled products which were found in small consignments in Poland
- Italian authorities seizing 16.9 tonnes of counterfeit pesticides worth €300,000, which were found in a warehouse in the Italian province of Viterbo.
To respond more efficiently to this threat, a European coordinated approach was developed with the launch of the first operation Silver Axe in 2015. The past five operations have seen a total amount at 2,568 tonnes of illegal pesticides seized.
“The record number of seizures brought by the fifth edition of operation Silver Axe clearly shows the effectiveness of international cooperation. Since its launch in 2015, the operation has gathered a growing number of countries, EU bodies and private sector representatives to fight this emerging trafficking trend together for the benefit of the human health and the planet on which we live. Our alliance against illegal pesticides is crucial to protect humans, wildlife and nature and preserve the future of the generations to come,” said Catherine De Bolle, Europol’s Executive Director.
“Counterfeit pesticides are a key example of the hazards that fake products pose to the citizens, consumers and the environment. Europol and its IPC3 unit are to be congratulated for their essential operations against the plague of counterfeits. Seizures on this scale make it even more urgent that IP crime is recognised as a priority area for enforcement action against organised international crime,” added EUIPO Executive Director, Christian Archambeau.