The largest-ever seizure of illegal or counterfeit pesticides in Europe was achieved recently in Europol’s annual Silver Axe operation.
Ireland was included in the 27 countries where 20 days of checks were carried out at major seaports, airports and land borders, as well as production and repacking facilities.
Some 360 tonnes of illegal or counterfeit pesticides were seized in the operation co-ordinated by Europol with the support of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF).
Pesticides are one of the most regulated products in the world, and can only be traded and used in the EU if the products are proven safe and authorised.
For a third year, Operation Silver Axe focused on the sale of and placing on the market of counterfeit pesticides, including infringements of intellectual property rights such as trademarks, patents and copyright, as well as targeting this illegal trade.
Europol experts exchanged and analysed data from participating countries, and liaised with stakeholders from 43 private pesticide companies.
OLAF provided Europol and the participating countries with information on 180 suspicious shipments of pesticides. CropLife International, the European Crop Protection Association, and the European Crop Care Association, EC-DG Sante, Interpol, and FAO, also participated in the operation.
Graeme Taylor, Director of Public Affairs for the European Crop Protection Association, said it is estimated that counterfeit and illegal pesticides make up almost 14% of the market in the EU.
“This is not just an issue for the companies, whose products are being counterfeited, but more significantly poses a risk to health and the environment as they are not subject to any of the rigorous safety tests or regulation that authorised pesticides are.”
Silver Axe is one of the flagship actions co-ordinated by the Intellectual Property Crime Coordinated Coalition (IPC3), funded by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
Paul Maier of EUIPO said €1.3 billion is lost every year across the EU due to counterfeit pesticides.
“That is just the economic cost, the potentially harmful effects that counterfeit pesticides can have on the food chain, and consequently the health and safety of consumers, is extremely worrying.” Knock-off effects on other industries and on government revenue could take costs to €2.8 billion in the EU.