Image: muammerokumus/CC BY -SA 2.0)
Pesticides are a two-edged sword. We take the risks of toxicological and ecological side effects because the first priority is to feed a growing population of humans. Those that cannot afford organic must trust the laws and regulations to protect them. And all of us depend on those laws to prevent threats to the sustainability of ecosystems upon which we rely. But a report this week reveals that those laws are powerless in the face of a new threat: fake, or counterfeit, pesticides. The Wall Street Journal has brought to light examples like pesticides produced with the solvent dimethylformamide, suspected of harming unborn children in the womb, at concentrations as high as 30%. The solvent is illegal in pesticides sold in Europe -- but here comes the hitch: European laws do not allow customs agents to seize the fake pesticides because pesticides are not covered by counterfeiting laws.
TreeHugger has found that the European Crop Protection Association has been calling for better laws to stop increasing imports of fake pesticides since the middle of last year already, and are attempting to alert farmers to how to identify counterfeit pesticides, which seem to slip out into the market in a "pattern of seizure and onward sale".
The Wall Street Journal reports that laws to speed up destruction of fake pesticides to prevent their use within the EU are expected to come into force in 2012. But as the activity shows all the hallmarks of lucrative black market practices conducted by organized criminal gangs, fighting back will require more than just laws. Farmers need to be educated on the risk of losing their entire crop, if it is caught contaminated with illegal pesticides. Legitimate agrochemical businesses need to ensure customers can clearly recognize the legal products. And organic farmers can embrace another boost to their market as consumer fears about this new threat to their health spread.
More on Pesticide Risks:
Random USDA Testing Finds 34 Unapproved Pesticides on Cilantro
Children Exposed to Pesticides Before Birth Likely to Have Lower IQ
Apples Beat Out Celery As Most Contaminated Produce
Reduce Your Pesticide Exposure by 80%