Greek medicinal herbs and plants are being sold illegally across Europe, according to a report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The FAO found that more than 1,000 Greek medicinal products are in breach of European law, with some being sold in the UK and elsewhere.
A total of 12 Greek medicinal species are illegal, including several that have medicinal properties that could be used in the treatment of epilepsy, cancer and heart disease.
The report says that the illegal trade in the plants was “growing” and that Greek authorities were not doing enough to protect them.
The FAOB says the country’s agricultural sector was responsible for producing about 80% of the countrys medicinal herbs.
It has launched a “bounty” campaign to collect €2.2bn ($2.5bn) in unpaid fines for the farmers whose plants were illegally sold.
It also says that a number of Greek medicinal properties are not in the country in the quantities required for the EU’s approved medicinal use and therefore can be sold illegally.
The investigation has revealed that the trade of Greek plants is being fuelled by a high demand for medicinal herbs, particularly in Germany, where the trade has increased by 40% in the last three years.
The European Commission is now investigating the Greek authorities and hopes to bring the country under control by 2020.
“There is a clear need for more rigorous oversight and better regulation in Greece,” said Federica Mogherini, the Commission’s vice-president for agriculture and rural development.
“I have seen a spike in the illegal export of medicinal herbs from Greece and I have a duty to stop this illegal trade.”
The EU, which is currently negotiating a trade deal with Greece, has already imposed a total of €10bn worth of penalties on Greek companies, with a further €1bn to be paid out on the first day of the new year.
The Commission’s chief agricultural advisor, Georg Preul, said: “We must ensure that we are doing everything possible to combat illegal trade, including by strengthening the legal framework for our trade agreements.”
In July, EU ministers agreed a series of measures to tighten oversight of the medicinal trade in Greece, including establishing an independent board of inspection and creating an “integrity and integrity check” committee to ensure that medicines are not used for commercial gain.
“We have a long way to go, but we are on the right track,” said Ms Mogherinis.
“As a member state, we must work with all Member States to ensure a safe and sustainable future for our plants and our farmers.”