ILLEGAL and counterfeit pesticides could be in use across the Thames Valley – potentially funding the activities of criminal gangs.
There pesticides have been found in increasing amounts across the UK and Europe and Thames Valley Police say they have a particular interest in them, not just because of the risks they pose to the rural communities, but the links to organised crime gangs.
There is growing evidence, they say, that the illicit activities of such gangs finance other serious crimes such as human trafficking and international terrorism, and now the issue is being investigated as part of Operation: Silo.
Chief Superintendent Gilbert Houalla, Head of Neighbourhood Policing and Partnerships said: "The Health and Safety Executive has shown that this illegal activity is happening across the UK. Our job at the moment is to investigate to what level, if any, it is happening across the Thames Valley.
"We are working closely with the industry which is providing farmers and growers with advice to minimise the risks of buying and using illegal pesticides through the nationwide ‘Watch Out’ campaign."
"The campaign is also being supported by research conducted by Harper Adams University into the threat posed to UK agriculture by counterfeit pesticides.
"This type of crime is very difficult to identify and spot happening and receiving intelligence will be a vital part of our investigation, which is where members of the public and more importantly, members of the rural and farming community and pesticide industry will come in.
"Please be on the lookout for anything suspicious, or unusual about any pesticide product you have either been offered or which you have bought and call our 101 to report it, quoting Operation Silo."
Illegal pesticides can be passed off as legitimate products, which have not been tested or approved for sale and are completely unregulated. Because there is no way of knowing what ingredients these illegal substance contain, there could be a risk to human health, food, the environment and the livelihood of the farming communities.
They also pose an increased chance of crop failure, a risk to wildlife, soil and water and endanger the health of those spraying the crops.
Police and Crime Commissioner Anthony Stansfeld said: "This is a serious aspect of rural crime which I have made a priority.
"The illegal sale of counterfeit pesticides is a threat to all through the food chain, as well as to wildlife.
"Thames Valley Police now take all aspects of rural crime with the utmost seriousness."
Police say members of the public should ask themselves the following questions when using pesticides, to determine whether the product may be suspicious.
• Does the product look or smell unusual?
• Have you been offered a product which has been described as the same as another but at a discounted rate?
• Have you been sold a product because your first choice was ‘out of stock’?
• Do you have any feelings that a product you have bought isn’t quite right? Are there any unusual symptoms or irregularities?(clogged spray jets / nozzles) etc
• Is the packaging unusual or not what you would expect?
Call Thames Valley Police on 101 and mention ‘Operation Silo’ if you have any suspicions, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org