Europe Proposes Cutting Down Millions of Olive Trees in Italy to Fight Outbreak
March 25th 2015


Fighting Xylella Fastidiosa: The proposed measures would include eradication, buffer zones and a strict limit on the movement of young trees

By Isabel Putinja

The European Commission has proposed cutting down up to 11 million olive trees in South Italy to contain the spread of Xylella fastidiosa. The bacterium spread by insects has been blamed for the devastation of over 74,000 acres of olive groves in the Salento region of Apulia (Puglia) in South Italy.

A study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had warned that the Xylella fastidiosa could spread from South Italy to olive groves in other countries in the European Union (EU) and cause significant crop damage and loss. Pests carrying Xylella fastidiosa can survive during transport and be present in plants grown in nurseries for replanting elsewhere.

While the use of insecticides could control its spread, the study says that this can impact negatively on the environment. Approaches to controlling the problem suggested focus on prevention and the containment of outbreaks which would include measures like pest-free production sites, surveillance, certification schemes to certify that plants are free of Xylella fastidiosa, screen house production, control of insects, testing for plant propagation material, and adequate preparation, treatment and inspection of plant consignments.

The drastic measures proposed by the European Commission will be discussed and approved in Brussels in the coming weeks. Enrico Brivio, the senior European Commission spokesman for health and food safety, announced that the proposed measures would include “eradication, buffer zones and a strict limit on the movement of young trees.” The European Commission is soon expected to announce new plans to compensate olive growers affected by the crisis.

The area identified for eradication measures 20,000 acres, an area which stretches between Lecce and Brindisi where 12 percent of olive trees are infected with the bacterium. Some of the olive trees are believed to be over 500 years old. Local growers fear the region will become arid and desert-like, and that the growth of new trees will not be sustainable.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Food Safety and Security, was quoted by the Daily Mail to be “profoundly concerned by the gravity of the situation,” and declared “we have to take decisive measures with immediate effect. Naturally it is very painful for the growers but it is necessary to remove all the affected trees — it is the most effective measure.”

Meanwhile, the Italian commissioner responsible for the State Forestry of Apulia, Giuseppe Silletti, has declared that any action which is taken should not be hostile to the environment – by avoiding the uprooting of healthy trees and using pesticides to kill the harmful insects responsible for the spread of the bacteria instead.

Source: Olive Oil Times


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