A year long, nationwide, industry campaign to raise awareness of the risks of illegal pesticides has been launched.
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.
The campaign aims to combat trade in illegal pesticides, involving organised criminal gangs, which the Voluntary Initiative says is increasing around the world.
The VI adds that these illegal pesticides are untested and uncontrolled and therefore may contain inferior or even dangerous and banned substances and that 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 by the VI 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.
- Report suspicious products and suppliers to the Defra helpline – 08459 33 55 77 (calls charged at a local rate).
VI chairman Richard Butler said: "The Voluntary Initiative is all about responsible pesticide use. As every farmer, operator and agronomist knows responsible pesticide use starts with using an approved product and following the information on the label.
"It is really sad that farmers now have to be aware of the danger posed by unscrupulous professional counterfeiters who want to undermine the professionalism and competence of UK farmers and sprayer operators".
Red Tractor Assurance chief executive David Clarke said: "Red Tractor Assurance schemes have always focused on the correct use of pesticides and we are clear that our remit includes ensuring that any pesticides are both approved and acquired legitimately. That is why we support the ‘Watch Out!’ for illegal pesticides campaign."
HSE Chemicals Regulation Directorate compliance head Chris Mawdsley said: "Pesticides are carefully regulated to protect human health and the environment. HSE and other regulators will work together to take robust action against those who break the law on pesticides and unnecessarily put themselves and others at risk."