British farming produce and the health of UK residents is being put at risk due to the growing market of illegally produced pesticides in Europe, claims a new study.
Up to five per cent of all pesticides sold in the EU could be fake and unlicensed, Chemistry & Industry, the magazine of the Society of Chemical Industry, claims.
The industry of producing fake chemicals for agricultural use is estimated to be worth €7.5 billion (£5 billion) and the UK government is currently investigating two companies suspected of producing counterfeit pesticides, which can decimate crop yields and potentially endanger consumers.
However, the problem is thought to be more acute on the continent, where up to seven per cent of all pesticides are illegally produced.
The president of the European Crop Protection Association, Roger Doig, told the magazine that the chemicals range from sophisticated copies of patented products to "low-quality fakes".
"Clearly there are risks when products that have not been properly studied or evaluated are being brought onto the market," he explained.
Mr Doig added: "Generally, speaking, it would be wrong to blame farmers [for buying the products] as in many cases they firmly believe they are buying legitimate products. We've had cases where only after farmers have come to us with a complaint have we identified the product as counterfeit."
Two examples cited in today's report include the batch of herbicide discovered in Italy this February that contained high-levels of insecticide, while a counterfeit pesticide used across Europe in 2004 destroyed hundreds of hectares of wheat in France, Italy and Spain.