Bogus pesticides funding human trafficking and terrorism

ORGANISED criminal gangs are pocketing billions of pounds each year selling bogus pesticides into Europe.

Speaking at the launch of Watch Out, a new campaign to raise awareness of illegal pesticides, European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) counterfeit expert David Stuart said criminals were mainly producing the products in China and shipping materials to Russia where they are packaged and distributed.

Patrick Goldsworthy of the Voluntary Initiative (VI) which is spearheading the campaign with support from the NFU, CPA, AIC, Red Tractor and Thames Valley Police, said 7 to 10 per cent of products sold in Europe are illegal.

He said farmers unwittingly using them could pose a massive risk to human health, their crops and the environment.

“It is sickening to think people’s hard work is being damaged by sick people who wish to make money in an illegal way.

“Ultimately gangs are making money from this activity to fund human trafficking and international terrorism.”

Former Farming Minister Jeff Rooker said gangs were spending increasing amounts of money on ‘quality’ chemists, enabling them to cash in on European markets, with the majority of products ending up in the Ukraine, Poland and the Balkans.

Mr Goldsworthy said although only 1 per cent had found their way into the UK market, illegal pesticides were a growing threat and if used would put livelihoods at risk.

Farmers and buying groups are being urged to be extra vigilant when buying pesticides and if suspicious, call the Defra helpline.

VI chairman Richard Butler added: “It is really sad that farmers now have to be aware of the danger posed by unscrupulous professional counterfeiters who want to undermine the professionalism and competence of UK farmers and sprayer operators.”

Thames Valley Police are currently investigating the distribution and use of illegal pesticides, including counterfeits, across Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire as part of Operation Silo.

Farmers, operators and agronomists are being urged to help guard against these illegal pesticides and are advised to:

  • Buy only known and reputable pesticides from known and reputable suppliers.
  • Check that packaging is professional, tamper proof and securely sealed and it has a full label written in English.
  • Check the product on the invoice and delivery note matches the product ordered and delivered.
  • Check that the product looks as expected.
  • Report suspicious products and suppliers to the Defra helpline – 08459 33 55 77 (calls charged at a local rate).

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