In the BVL Synthesis Chemistry Laboratory, under the supervision of Dr. Claudia Fink develops methods of analysis to identify illegal pesticides. Photo Note: Wei / BVL
On the occasion of publishing the results of this year’s Europol Silver Ax VI pursuit of plant protection products, Dr. Nils Korlemann from the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) in Braunschweig: The German authorities concerned were particularly successful in 2021. They managed to seize more than 70 tons of suspicious pesticides.
Information from the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) has led to casualties: in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, many imports of supposedly counterfeit pesticides have been stopped. “Without this information, deliveries cleared through small customs offices far from the EU’s external borders would likely have gone undetected,” Korleman said. The products come from a UK-based group of companies that have attracted attention for years by placing counterfeit products in Germany under the guise of parallel trade. “As with all criminal acts, it is a race between law enforcement officers and professional counterfeiters,” says the chemist, who serves as the liaison to responsible national and international institutions.
Operation Silver Ax aims to detect and punish the import and trade of illegal pesticides. It was held between February 1 and April 12, 2021 and covered 31 countries in the European Union and beyond. In addition to the various federal authorities, individual plant protection services were involved from the states of Bremen, Hamburg and Lower Saxony, as in previous years. However, Operation Silver Axis VI also showed that local proximity to a seaport or other EU external border is not critical to import control. “Free trading is allowed throughout Germany,” Korlemann explains.
After suspicious samples surface, actual detection of illegal pesticides is a major challenge. Under the leadership of BVL expert Dr. Claudia Fink, a guideline has been developed in the European Union Working Group on the Chemical Analysis of Plant Protection Products. In the Chemical Synthesis Laboratory of the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety, analysis methods are developed in order to be able to identify illegal pesticides on behalf of the control authorities of the federal states. The laboratory in Braunschweig is the only official laboratory in Germany that examines pesticide samples for approval or approval, ie for authenticity.