UNICRI illicit pesticides, organized crime and supply chain integrity report

A new Report on “Illicit pesticides, organized crime and supply chain integrity” has been published by the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI).

The report, prepared by UNICRI and discussed by experts and practitioners during an Expert Workshop, aims at deepening the general knowledge on current trends related to illicit pesticides, identifying the actors and organized crime groups (OCGs) and networks involvement and their modus operandi, and understanding the supply chain vulnerabilities. Participants included high level representatives from Brazil, Ghana, Finland, Italy, Moldova, Vietnam, Basel Convention Regional Center in China, Uk Intellitech Security Group, EUROPOL, Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Lund University, CropLife, Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Pesticides Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), World Customs Organisation, INTERPOL and Reconnaissance International.

I was honored to be invited to the workshop and to have the opportunity to contribute: a special thanks to entire UNICRI team, especially Vittoria Luda di Cortemilia, Programme Coordinator of UNICRI Environmental Crimes Programme – Emerging Crimes Unit – Elise Vermeersch, Project Associate, and Francesca Bosco, Senior Fellow. The report was drafetd by the UNICRI and Robyn Mace.

Illicit pesticides pose potentially serious threats to human safety and health, economies, businesses and farmers, the environment, and national security. For more than a decade, regulators, industry and farmers in numerous countries have been struggling with the growing market in illicit agro-chemicals and illicit plant protection products (PPPs). Worldwide estimates of trade in illegal and counterfeit markets range from 5-15% for most types of products and commodities. The European Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG-SANTE) indicates that about 10% of the European Union (EU) pesticides market is comprised of illegal pesticides, noting significant variation between Member States. Other sources have indicated that more than 25% of pesticide products in some EU Member States are counterfeit.

This policy paper is divided into four sections. The first presents an overview of the risks and impacts of illicit pesticide use on human health, livestock and food supplies, the environment, and the international agricultural trade.

The second section presents data and information on actors and agents, modus operandi, observed trends, product flows and regional profiles of the pesticides market. This section also considers trade, agricultural and food supply chain characteristics, security vulnerabilities, and protection and defense measures against organized crime groups and networks that have infiltrated international agrochemicals and pesticide markets.

The third section summarizes key regulatory issues, identifies obstacles and indicates concrete actions to prevent and combat the importation, sale and use of illicit pesticides, as well as the role of the actors involved in the control and securitization of the market.

The final section concludes with the role of UNICRI in addressing the issues of illicit pesticides, in particular in facilitating research, raising stakeholders’ awareness, delivering training and technical assistance programmes, supporting in capacity building activities and reinforcing national and international cooperation.

The report contains also an amazing list of cases happened in the last decade, divided by country.

Evaluation and fitness check roadmap of EU consumer law

The Commission published today an evaluation and fitness check roadmap of consumer law.

Plans for a Fitness Check of legal acts related to consumer rights and advertising were first announced in the 2013 REFIT Communication . The Commission Work Programme 2015 included, as one of the REFIT actions in the area of Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, a Fitness Check of key EU directives in the area of consumer rights and advertising:

Directive 2005/29/EC concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market (Unfair Commercial Practices Directive);

Directive 1999/44/EC on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees (Sales and Guarantees Directive);

Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts (Unfair Contract Terms Directive). The above-mentioned directives are part of the body of general EU consumer law. For consistency reasons and to ensure comprehensive evaluation the following Directives should also be subject to the Fitness Check:

Directive 98/6/EC on consumer protection in the indication of the prices of products offered to consumers (Price Indication Directive);

Directive 2006/114/EC concerning misleading and comparative advertising (Misleading and Comparative Advertising Directive);

Directive 2009/22/EC on injunctions for the protection of consumers’ interests (Injunctions Directive). The following Directive will be evaluated separately by the Commission in accordance with its Article 30:

Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU. The outcome of this separate evaluation of the Consumer Rights Directive will feed into the conclusions of the Fitness Check.

There will be several types of consultations during the Fitness Check:

• Online public consultation of 12 weeks in order to provide an opportunity for the public to participate in the evaluation;

• Targeted consultation of representative organisations (Member states authorities, businesses and consumer and industry organisations) – by surveys, interviews and case studies performed by the Commission’s external contractor;

• Targeted online consultation of a representative number of consumers in each Member State performed by the external contractor;

• Case studies with businesses in each Member State, in particular SMEs, performed by the external contractor.

In addition, the Commission will organise 2 events for Member States experts and other stakeholders and will inform and consult them through the existing networks.

The overall aim of the Fitness Check is to analyse the  and EU added value of the policy framed by the directives subject to the Fitness Check. The focus of the Fitness Check will be to assess whether the fundamental objectives of these directives have been efficiently achieved and fully delivered.

In particular, it will assess whether these directives have efficiently achieved consumer protection and market integration objectives. It will analyse whether they have usefully contributed to the Single Market by enhancing consumers trust and confidence as well as by removing unjustified regulatory obstacles hindering cross-border trade in goods and services. As already highlighted in the context of the DSM Strategy and in the preparatory works for the above-mentioned proposal for a Directive on online and other distance sales of goods, the differences between national rules based on the minimum harmonisation nature of the Sales and Guarantees Directive have created Single Market barriers that impede businesses from offering goods across the entire EU and – as a result – consumer detriment.

The Fitness Check should also examine whether these instruments capture and reflect the current market trends and, in particular, changes in the markets and the behaviour of consumers. The questions related to redress will be an important part of the exercise. The Fitness Check should further assess how well these legal instruments fit within the overall Union’s legal landscape, taking into account also its international dimension. The Fitness Check will also explore ways to improve the application of the current EU legal framework.

In addition, the Fitness Check should assess the potential for simplification in the current regulatory framework and the reduction of regulatory costs and burdens while guaranteeing a high level of consumer protection. The directives subject to the Fitness Check have been enacted at different periods of time and regulate specific aspects of consumer rights, whilst at the same time pursuing the same common objectives. The Fitness Check will therefore explore whether and to what extent a potential codification of EU consumer law into a single EU instrument could bring added clarity, remove overlaps, and fill any gaps.

For example, the Fitness Check should analyse the interplay between the information requirements provided in the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, the Price Indication Directive and the Consumer Rights Directive to see if there is a room for clarification or simplification. The Fitness Check will also assess whether the provisions of the Unfair Contract Terms Directive could be reinforced by, for example specific rules on standard terms that are always prohibited (that already exist in certain Member States which have introduced rules beyond the minimum requirements of the Directive) and whether the current minimum harmonisation nature of this Directive constitutes a barrier to the Single Market. As regards the Sales and Guarantees Directive, the Fitness Check should in particular assess its relevance in promoting more durable products and contributing to a circular economy.

Next to their application in the business-to-consumer (B2C) relations, the Fitness Check will analyse the need and potential for the application of the existing consumer rules also in business-to-business (B2B) transactions, in particular the transactions with the SMEs, by taking account of the B2B rules already laid down in the Misleading and Comparative Advertising Directive, and in transactions between businesses and non-for-profit entities that do not qualify as consumers under the current rules. The Fitness Check will also analyse the issues arising in consumer-to-consumer (C2C) transactions (increasingly relevant due to the rise of the sharing economy) and in consumer-to-business (C2B) relations.

The fitness check should be completed in the second quarter of 2017.