EU Court Allows Mandate for Felling Trees Near Those Infected by Xylella

The EU Court of Justice said that the Commission may require states to remove all plants capable of being infected by the Xf, even when there are no symptoms of infection, when such plants are in the vicinity of plants already affected.

Jun. 10, 2016
By Ylenia Granitto

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The EU Court of Jus­tice said that the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion may require mem­ber states to remove all plants capa­ble of being infected by Xylella fas­tidiosa (Xf) bac­terium if they are in the vicin­ity of plants already affected, even when there are no symp­toms of infec­tion.

The removal of infected plants, even where there is sci­en­tific uncer­tainty on the sub­ject, is jus­ti­fied by the pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple.- EU Court of Jus­tice

Accord­ing to the judge­ment, the con­cerned Mem­ber State, within a 100 m radius around the plants that have been tested and found to be infected by the spec­i­fied organ­ism, imme­di­ately removes: host plants, regard­less of their health sta­tus; plants infected by the spec­i­fied organ­ism; plants show­ing symp­toms sug­ges­tive of pos­si­ble infec­tion by that organ­ism or sus­pected of being infected by that organ­ism.” More­over, it must per­form appro­pri­ate pes­ti­cide treat­ments against the spec­i­fied vec­tor organ­ism and plants that can host vec­tors. Such treat­ments may include, where appro­pri­ate, the removal of plants.”

In an expe­dited pro­ce­dure, the Court con­firmed the valid­ity of the Commission’s deci­sion that imposed the oblig­a­tion to remove all host plants within a radius of 100 meters around infected plants. Since the oblig­a­tion to apply appro­pri­ate phy­tosan­i­tary treat­ments might include, as appro­pri­ate’, removal of plants, a sys­tem of com­pen­sa­tion for farm­ers is not laid down by the mea­sure at the moment, but can­not how­ever be excluded.

Lux­em­bourg judges clar­i­fied that, although the sci­en­tific opin­ions have not yet shown the exis­tence of a cer­tain causal con­nec­tion between the Xylella and des­ic­ca­tion of the olive trees, nonethe­less there is a sig­nif­i­cant cor­re­la­tion between that bac­terium and the pathol­ogy dis­played by the olive trees. In this sense, the adop­tion of pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures such as the removal of infected plants, even where there is sci­en­tific uncer­tainty on the sub­ject, is jus­ti­fied by the pre­cau­tion­ary prin­ci­ple.”

The Court also affirmed that the removal of the plants located in the vicin­ity of infected plants is strictly pro­por­tion­ate,’ con­sid­er­ing the adop­tion by the Com­mis­sion, in 2014 of lighter mea­sures that have failed to pre­vent the spread the bac­terium. Fur­ther­more, the adop­tion of less bur­den­some mea­sures are not pos­si­ble, since there is cur­rently no treat­ment that will heal the infected plants in the open field.”


Lux­em­bourg, how­ever, warned that in the event of new sci­en­tific data from which it tran­spires that it is no longer nec­es­sary to chop down the host plants, the Com­mis­sion should amend the mea­sures.

In Decem­ber, a pros­e­cu­tor in Lecce ordered a seizure of all olive trees slated for removal in the emer­gency plan, which he now has to decide whether to keep or revoke.

I will con­vene a task force meet­ing next Tues­day for assess­ing the effects of this judg­ment,” said the pres­i­dent of the Apu­lia Region, Michele Emil­iano, who after Tues­day’s meet­ing intends to con­front the Lecce pros­e­cu­tor and the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture. Based on the Ital­ian posi­tion which will emerge from such con­vo­ca­tions I will require a meet­ing with the high­est author­i­ties of the Euro­pean Union,” Emil­iano announced.

As expected, the judge­ment has prompted protests among farm­ers who strug­gle for the safe­guard of their plants.

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