EU resolution urges action over olive tree bacterium

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

There is no known treatment for Xylella fastidiosa, which either kills trees quickly or leaves them infected for life.
There is no known treatment for Xylella fastidiosa, which either kills trees quickly or leaves them infected for life.

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MEPs passed a resolution last week demanding decisive action to stop the spread of the Xylella bacterium, which has already destroyed thousands of olive trees in Italy.

The resolution​, passed last week by 507 votes to 115, also called for compensation to growers who had suffered economic losses as well as more funding for research into the disease.

Although MEPs welcomed the EU’s decision to restrict plant imports from areas affected by Xylella – such as coffee plants from Costa Rica and Honduras – they criticised the Commission for failing to act sooner to prevent the disease from entering Europe.

Xylella fastidiosa is spread by insects and has already destroyed 74,000 acres of olive groves in southern Italy, while 12% of olive trees in the region are thought to be contaminated.

It has the potential to attack almond, peach and citrus trees as well as ornamental plants and vineyards.

MEP and member of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Esther Herranz, said: “We need to give strong financial support to Italian farmers who are currently facing dramatic consequences of the epidemic which is provoking huge economic losses and harming the cultural heritage of olive oil production.

“It is crucial to undertake scientific research on Xylella to find more efficient means to fight against it and reduce the economic impact for producers."

In March the Commission proposed destroying up to 11 million olive trees in the affected area as an emergency control measure, but this announcement was criticised by environmental group Peacelink who claimed that fungal disease management could bring the disease under control.

EFSA published an opinion​ concluding that there was no evidence to suggest fungal management would prove effective in combatting the disease, but it said the Commission’s decision to raze thousands of trees also lacked scientific evidence.

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