By Fred Fishel, associate professor, Department of Agronomy, and director, Pesticide Information Office, UF/IFAS
In Europe and other areas of the world counterfeit and illegally traded pesticides are on the increase. These illegal products are produced and distributed by criminal gangs. The products are untested and unregulated, and they threaten the health of farmers and consumers, as well as posing risks to the natural environment. Counterfeit pesticides that make their way into the United States threaten the integrity of those industries which depend on the benefits of pesticide use.
The scale and scope of the illegal manufacture and trade of counterfeit pesticides differs from market to market depending on countries specificities. In a 2008 report, Counterfeit Pesticides across Europe, the European Crop Protection Association provides a detailed overview of the problem, as well as possible solutions, including information on the overall problem within various European countries.
Fighting counterfeit pesticides is a complex task. In Europe, although regulations governing pesticide use are abundant, inadequate attention is devoted to enforcement of these regulations. This dichotomy has led in recent years to a dramatic increase in illegal, counterfeit pesticides in European countries.
The grave nature of the problem requires urgent actions by all stakeholders, including state regulatory authorities, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, commodity/trade associations, national governments and supranational entities, as well as agricultural producers and the food and pesticide industries.
The Growing Problem
In Europe, the growth of counterfeit plant protection products is worrying. The ECPA estimates that 5 percent to 7 percent of annual turnover is affected by counterfeiting and illegal trade. At the time of the report, in U.S. dollars, this is about $260 million - $370 million of the European pesticide business across Europe. In some regional hot spots, 25 percent or more of the market is estimated to be counterfeit. These estimates are based on statistics, market dynamics, percentage of customs seizures and case-by-case country studies. And the problem is growing.
In China and India, illegal pesticides are deemed to make up about 30 percent and 20 percent of these markets, respectively. The rapid growth of chemical manufacturing capabilities in these countries has made this possible. Pesticide imports from China into the European Union are growing eight times faster than average worldwide pesticide imports into the EU. This is a concern in light of the fact that 86 percent of counterfeited goods seized in 2006 came from China.