Watch Out! for illegal pesticides is the message of a nationwide, industry campaign launched to raise awareness of the risks of illegal pesticides. The campaign is supported by the Voluntary Initiative and Red Tractor Assurance, with funding from the Crop Protection Association, National Farmers Union and Agricultural Industries Confederation.

Trade in illegal pesticides, involving organised criminal gangs, is increasing around the world. It is estimated that 7-10% of pesticides on the EU market are illegal and just last year Europol seized 190 tonnes of illegal counterfeit pesticides on the continent.

These illegal pesticides are untested and uncontrolled and therefore may contain inferior or even dangerous and banned substances. Their use could endanger the health of sprayer operators, deprive farmers of their Single Farm Payment and farm assured status, result in crop failure or rejection, create environmental risks to wildlife, soil and water and even lead to prosecution.

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.
  • Ensure “parallel import” products are genuine – ask for confirmation of the company that made the product and the country it came from.
  • Report suspicious products and suppliers to the Defra helpline – 08459 33 55 77 (calls charged at a local rate).

Richard Butler, Voluntary Initiative (VI) chairman, said: “The Voluntary Initiative is all about responsible use and reducing environmental risks to wildlife, soil and water. As every farmer, operator and agronomist knows, best practice starts with using an approved product and following the information on the label. It is really important that farmers are aware of the danger posed by unscrupulous professional counterfeiters who want to undermine their farm businesses, putting the environment at risk as well as the professional reputation of our sector.”