Illicit Trade in Agrochemicals and Pesticides
Trade in counterfeit and illegal pesticides poses real and serious risks to farmer’s health, consumers, the environment and sustainable agriculture. Counterfeit and illegal pesticides often contain chemicals which are either banned or restricted due to the risk they pose to human health and/or the environment. Unknown ingredients can damage or fully destroy the treated crop, thus compromising farmer livelihood, as well as damage the reputation of legitimate stakeholders and deprives countries of revenue and tax. Additionally, counterfeit and illegal pesticides are often falsely declared to avoid international labelling requirements designed to ensure safety during transport. As a result, highly toxic, flammable or otherwise hazardous substances are transported without due regard to the safety of the staff handling the product, bystanders and the environment.
The global revenues associated with the trade in counterfeit and other illegal pesticides are estimated at more than €4.4 billion per annum. The illegal trade in pesticides represents over 10% of the total worldwide market, which has an end-user value of €44 billion (Europol, 2011).
In the EU alone, it is estimated that the legitimate industry loses approximately €1.3 billion of revenue annually due to the presence of counterfeit pesticides in the EU marketplace, corresponding to 13.8 % of the sector’s sales. When taking into account the knock-on effects on other industries and on government revenue, the trade in counterfeit and illegal pesticides causes approximately €2.8 billion of lost sales to the EU economy, which in turns leads to employment losses of about 11 700 jobs and a loss of €238 million in government revenues (EUIPO, 2017).
This illegal trade threatens legitimate operators, due to the unfair competition it creates. Moreover, unknown residues make food unfit for market and result in economic and reputational losses throughout the food chain. Moreover, due to the lack of traceability, illegal pesticides are especially at risk of being used as precursors for Home Made Explosives (HME).
Europol's Operation Silver Axe
Third party publications
Learn how illicit trade in agrochemicals and pesticides impacts the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals
From smuggling, counterfeiting and tax evasion, to the illegal sale or possession of goods, services, humans and wildlife, illicit trade is compromising the attainment of the UN SDGs in significant ways, crowding out legitimate economic activity, depriving governments of revenues for investment in vital public services, dislocating millions of legitimate jobs and causing irreversible damage to ecosystems and human lives.
The TRACIT report Mapping the Impact of Illicit Trade on the Sustainable Development Goals investigates illicit trade in 12 key sectors that participate significantly in international trade and are most vulnerable to illicit trade. For each sector, the negative impacts of illicit trade are mapped against the 17 UN SDGs. The full report is available here.
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The trade in illegal and counterfeit pesticides is organised by highly sophisticated criminal networks. Criminals have developed complex global supply chains and exploit legal companies to camouflage their activities. The global revenues associated with this crime are estimated to be billions of euros a year.