The United Kingdom is by far Europe’s biggest exporter of toxic banned pesticides to poorer countries, an Unearthed and Public Eye investigation has revealed.

It found that EU countries issued plans in 2018 to export more than 81,000 tonnes of pesticides containing chemicals prohibited in their own fields.

Poorer countries like South Africa, Ukraine, and Brazil – where experts warn hazardous pesticide use poses the greatest risks – were the intended destination for the bulk of shipments.

The UK was responsible for 13,760 tonnes of those planned shipments to low- and middle-income countries – close to three times the amount attributable to any other exporter.

Among the banned agrochemicals shipped by the tonne from EU ports were substances found by the EU’s own authorities to pose potential health hazards like reproductive failure, endocrine disruption or cancer, and environmental hazards like groundwater contamination or poisoning of fish, birds, mammals or bees.

Loopholes in European law mean chemical companies like Bayer and Syngenta can continue making pesticides for export long after they have been banned from use in the EU to protect the environment or the health of its citizens.

Visualisations by Martin Grandjean