European customs have seized 122 tonnes of illegal pesticides, pouncing on shipments entering the continent through ports and airports, Europol said Thursday.
The 10-day operation called "Silver Axe II" saw national custom officers, Europol and the European Anti-Fraud Office conduct operations in 16 countries, including Britain, France, Greece, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia and Spain.
"The number of counterfeit pesticides seized is enough to almost cover the size of Luxembourg twice," or more than 452,000 football fields, said Europol spokeswoman Tine Hollevoet.
Most of the counterfeit chemicals were produced in China, using substandard and often dangerous chemicals, added Chris Vansteenkiste, head of Europol's IPC3 intellectual property crimes unit.
Fake pesticides have the potential to severely damage crops, pollute the environment and be harmful to health, the agency said.
They can also be combustible at an extremely low temperatures, said Vansteenkiste.
"Some of these chemicals combust at temperatures as low as 28°C, making them extremely dangerous to transport and store," said Vansteenkiste.
The fake pesticides are now stored in specialised facilities and will soon be destroyed, he added.
Europol last month singled out China and Hong Kong as overwhelmingly the largest shipment centres in the world for fake goods.
With the rising use of freight rail links between China and Europe, there are also concerns that criminal networks may seize on a potentially cheaper or faster alternative for transporting goods than container shipping or air links.