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Buying pesticides abroad: what is allowed?

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Parallel trade
Klaus Strotmann, agricultural today
on Saturday, 10/17/2020 - 6:00 a.m. (comment now)

Get pesticides on the Polish street market? Experts from Brandenburg report on bans and exceptions. It becomes dangerous with adulterated funds.

Buying pesticides across the border and in Poland or the Czech Republic on the street market - is that allowed? Or do I have one leg in jail? The plant protection service of the State Office for Rural Development, Agriculture and Land Management (LELF) in Brandenburg sheds light on the darkness.

Example Poland: illegal imports of pesticides

Many allotment gardeners and farmers who live near the border and buy pesticides abroad do not know enough about the legal situation. This is shown by controls carried out by customs, which in Brandenburg work intensively with the LELF.

At the same time, the market for counterfeit pesticides is huge and harbors risks for the health of users and the ecosystem.

Using Poland as an example, the LELF presents the applicable rules. Accordingly, the import into Germany and the use of Polish pesticides in Germany is generally illegal. There are only a few exceptions.

Own imports and uses are generally prohibited

Two key questions and the same answer twice:

Can plant protection products from other EU countries be brought to Germany?

Basically no.

Can they be used in Germany?

Basically no.

What exceptions apply to the import of plant protection products?

There are a few exceptions for both questions and both “no”:

  1. Parallel trade: If parallel traders officially import plant protection products that have been approved abroad, re-label them adequately and the products are identical in construction, i.e. identical to a reference product approved in Germany, farmers are also allowed to purchase them in German specialist shops and use them legally.
    However, the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) must approve the import, see Sections 46 to 48 of the Plant Protection Act (PflSchG).
  2. Own use: Farmers may acquire and use funds for their own use if they are “identical” to a reference agent approved in Germany.
    Similar to parallel traders, however, they must obtain approval from the BVL for import, see Section 51 (1) and (2) PflSchG. After approval, the authority issues a note "only for use in the applicant's company".
  3. Test purposes: Plant protection products may also be brought and used for test purposes (subject to approval, Section 20 PflSchG).

Why are pesticides not automatically authorized in neighboring countries?

On the one hand, the legislation on plant protection products aims to protect crops from damage. At the same time, dangers to the health of humans, animals and nature must be averted.

Strict and appropriate regulations for use are intended to guarantee a high level of protection for health and the ecosystem. It happens on two levels:

  • The approval of the active substance at EU level sets the framework. Only agents with active ingredients approved in the EU may be approved in the member states.
  • Each member state designs the actual admission of funds with rules for the protection of health and the ecosystem. Due to different requirements in each member state, these can look different.

Therefore, a product approved in another EU member state is not automatically approved in Germany.

This is how the legal parallel trade in herbicides, fungicides and co.

Some pesticides are sold "identical" in several EU member states. However, the exact conditions of use differ between countries.

The so-called parallel trade, which is subject to authorization, opens up opportunities for distributing such funds between the EU member states. The approval process ensures that all German regulations on the product are observed after import (see Sections 46 to 48 PflSchG).

Plant protection products: labeling in German is mandatory

The first pillar for the protection of health and nature is the issuing of the application regulations. The second pillar is their implementation.

Every single user must know and implement these regulations. Therefore, in Germany, the German regulations must be indelible and in German on the end-of-line packaging of the plant protection products (see Section 31, Paragraphs 1 and 2, PflSchG).

This is usually not the case with pesticides brought from abroad, which is why they are not permitted in Germany.

How do I recognize plant protection products from abroad?

Plant protection products traded in parallel must be labeled in German as described above. For this purpose, the funds can even be completely re-labeled.

But how do you then know whether a plant protection product has been imported from abroad, i.e. whether it comes from parallel trade? The approval number (GP number) with which the containers must be labeled provides information.

The GP number consists of the approval number of the reference agent, a slash and a three-digit number, for example 024395-00 / 001. Products with a German approval only have the nine-digit approval number, in the example 024395-00.

Criminal: Counterfeit pesticides

The cases handed over to the LELF by customs also included counterfeit, i.e. illegal, plant protection products that are not approved in Poland either. Laboratory analyzes carried out confirmed the suspicion: The active ingredient contents did not correspond to the information printed on the labels.

In addition to fake Polish labels, the authorities also found labels in German on counterfeit products.

In the course of controls, a plant protection product was also found that contained an active substance that had not been approved in the EU since 2020.

The European Plant Protection Association (ECPA) estimates that up to 10 percent of the plant protection products used in the EU are counterfeit branded products.

In order to be able to identify original containers with certainty, manufacturers rely on labels with watermarks and use sealing seals with optical security features and QR codes. The user can scan this and have the manufacturer confirm the authenticity of the plant protection product.

Tamper-proof closures are intended to prevent refilling with counterfeit goods.

Problems are caused by home users and glyphosate

In most cases it was total herbicides and insecticides against aphids. As a rule, it is private individuals who want to introduce these funds for their own use. Often they act in ignorance of the legal situation.

However, there are also importers of larger quantities, who sometimes also act “to order”. It is especially difficult for the allotment gardener to keep track of this area.

It is particularly problematic when allotment gardeners and hobby farmers purchase professional packaging of the pesticides.

If these highly concentrated agents are used by inexperienced persons who also do not understand the Polish safety instructions, it is a matter of luck and luck for the health of oneself and others, as well as for the environment.

For these reasons, customs and LELF continue to work closely together in Brandenburg. The aim is the safe use of tested pesticides.

With material from BVL, LELF Brandenburg, ECPA