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Authorities Crack Down on Illegal Pesticide Trade in Europe

An investigation from the EU Observer finds that the black market pesticide trade in Europe is a multi-million dollar illegal industry that carries big potential and low risk.

Journalist Staffan Dahllöf says sellers first purchase cheap, black-listed compounds from China then jack up the price when they sell to European buyers.

“A single shipment of 160 tons generates €11.2m. Tax-free and almost completely risk-free,” writes Dahllöf.

European authorities are aware of the operations and are now cracking down. Europol calls their efforts to do so “operation Silver Axe.”

In 2020, 32 countries coordinated efforts to carry out the fifth edition of the mission. Between January to April 2020, Europol seized more than 1.3 tons of illegal pesticides, enough to fill 458 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The worth is roughly valued at more than €94 million.

“Law enforcement authorities carried out inspections on land and sea borders, inland marketplaces and parcel deliveries, checking more than 3,000 tons of pesticides,” said Europol’s press release.

Highlights of this year’s mission include interceptions of non-labeled products in Poland, counterfeit pesticides in Italy, and illegal compounds headed towards Cyprus.

Europol cites studies that show as much as 14% of Europe’s entire pesticide sphere is affected by trafficked, illegal pesticides.

“Some of the organized crime groups trafficking pesticides are also involved in other illegal activities such as trafficking counterfeited cigarettes and illegally trading pharmaceuticals,” says Europol’s release.

The director of the European Crop Protection Association says these products are a risk to human and environmental health.

“This is not just an issue for our companies, whose products are being counterfeited, but more significantly poses a risk to health and the environment,” said Geraldine Kutas in the release.

Since Operation Silver Axe started in 2015, agents have recovered more than 2.5 tons of illegal or counterfeit pesticides.


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