Approximately 13.8% of all pesticides sold in the EU are counterfeits, a new report from the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) has estimated.

The traffic of illicit and counterfeit pesticides is one of the most profitable businesses for international fraudsters the report highlights.

Illegal pesticides, which are mostly untested and composed of active substances banned in the EU but still in use in other parts of the world, can pose significant health risks for farmers and consumers.

They are also considered harmful to the environment by causing damage to flora, fauna and soils.

Illicit shipment

Operation Silver Axe takes place each year, targeting illicit imports of prohibited pesticides into the EU.

Led by Europol, the fifth Operation Silver Axe involved OLAF and customs authorities from the EU member states, China, Ukraine, Russia and Colombia.

OLAF’s principal role in the operation was to alert EU customs authorities about suspicious shipments of pesticides, with a specific emphasis on active ingredients that have recently been de-authorised for use in the EU because of their environmental or health risks.

The suspicious shipments of pesticides identified by OLAF came mainly from China and India, and although declared as being in transit through the EU en route to other countries, the chemicals were in fact intended for illegal sale in the EU.

Some 1,346t of illicit and counterfeit pesticides were seized as a result of the operation, taking the total over the five years to 2,568t.