Europol, along with support from the European Anti-Fraud Office, has seized 360 tonnes of counterfeit pesticides, the largest ever pesticides seizure carried out by the EU’s law enforcement agency.

The seizures were made as part of Europol’s Operation Silver Axe III. Checks were carried out at seaports, airports and land borders.

Pesticides can only be traded in the EU if the products are proven safe and authorised.

The 360 tonnes of counterfeit pesticides seized equates to 48,000 kilometres worth of spray—almost the size of the UK.

Wil van Gemert, Europol’s deputy executive director of operations, commented: “The record volume of hazardous substances seized this year is an important step in stemming the flow of potentially lethal products into the EU marketplace.”

“The complexity and scale of this fraud mean cooperation needs to happen across borders with a multi-agency approach, working hand in hand with the private sector.”

Graeme Taylor, director of public affairs for the European crop protection association, added that, in the EU, it is estimated that counterfeit and illegal pesticides make up almost 14 percent of the market.

He added: “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.”

“We are pleased to see the continued success of Operation Silver Axe, and are grateful to Europol for taking a lead on this important issue.”

Paul Maier, director of the EU Intellectual Property Office’s (EUIPO) observatory on infringements of IP rights, said: “The EUIPO’s own research shows that every year, across the EU, €1.3 billion is lost 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.”