Rural crime expert warns about dangers of counterfeit pesticides


Date: 10th Nov 2020

Use of fake products that pose risks to the environment and human health could increase after Brexit 

Dr Chris Sambrook, Senior Lecturer and rural criminologist within the Institute of Professional Policing at Buckinghamshire New University, appeared on television on Sunday evening to discuss the circulation of counterfeit pesticides within UK farms.

BBC Countryfile’s Charlotte Smith interviewed Dr Sambrook, who is a specialist in rural and environmental crime.

Chris Sambrook filming Countryfile

Commenting on the impact of the illegitimate products, Dr Sambrook said: “As well as being potentially ineffective, they may contain ingredients that can cause damage to crops, to the environment, and even to human health. Some of the ingredients used in these products are known to be carcinogenic.”

There has been a major rise in the illegal trade of counterfeit, unapproved or banned pesticides* and Dr Sambrook says that the money made from this ‘high-profit, low-risk’ crime is often used to fund larger criminal activities, such as people trafficking.

Some farmers do not even realise they are using illegal pesticides, but they are frequently forced to buy from alternative vendors due to supply issues within the UK.

“This is about farmers who are in a situation where they need a particular product at a particular point in time, but the legitimate market can’t supply it,” added Dr Sambrook.

“The advantage the organised crime groups have is that they have established links to the Far East and they can meet these spikes in demand in a way that the normal market can’t.”

The issue is a growing concern with the UK’s exit from the European Union approaching.

Dr Sambrook added that Brexit brings uncertainty to the market. At the moment EU rules dictate what pesticides are allowed to be used in the UK, but use and import rules may change and may present additional opportunities for organised crime groups involved in the trade.

This means the need to police the distribution of counterfeit products is increasing.

Chris commented: “I hope to raise awareness of our Policing postgraduate course in Rural and Environmental Crime and Policing to address this.

“The course is designed to develop future leaders in enforcement agencies such as the police, the Environment Agency, and Local Authorities who develop strategies to deal with this type of rural/environmental crime.

“I want to get the message over that this course is open to people who work in this field who do not necessarily have a first degree but who may be accepted onto the course by virtue of professional experience.”

Head of School, Professor Phillip Wood, commented: “It is hugely encouraging to see Chris’s work on this important subject being highlighted.

“Rural crime is not high in our national awareness, nor is the production and distribution of counterfeit products of all kinds throughout our society. Raising that awareness is essential to protect livelihoods, health and of course legitimate business.”

Chris’ Countryfile appearance can be viewed here.


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