` Prosecutor in Lecce Seizes Olive Trees, Investigates Scientists for 'Misrepresentation'

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Prosecutor in Lecce Seizes Olive Trees, Investigates Scientists for 'Misrepresentation'

Dec. 18, 2015
By Ylenia Granitto

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The Pros­e­cu­tor of Lecce, Cataldo Motta, with pub­lic pros­e­cu­tors Elsa Vale­ria Mignone and Roberta Licci, issued an urgent seizure order, exe­cuted today by the State Forestry Corps, to pre­vent the fur­ther felling of olive trees ordered by the EU to com­bat the Xylella fas­tidiosa out­break in Salento.

Ten peo­ple are under inves­ti­ga­tion in Lecce and sur­round­ing areas for their han­dling of the cri­sis for var­i­ous infrac­tions includ­ing: spread­ing of a plant dis­ease, will­ful vio­la­tion of the pro­vi­sions on the envi­ron­ment, fake mate­r­ial com­mit­ted by pub­lic offi­cials in pub­lic doc­u­ments, fraud­u­lent mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion and the destruc­tion or dis­fig­ure­ment of nat­ural beauty.

The peo­ple named in the inves­ti­ga­tion include:

  • Spe­cial Com­mis­sioner Giuseppe Sil­letti
  • Anto­nio Guario, for­mer direc­tor of the Regional Plant Health Obser­va­tory of Bari
  • Giuseppe D’Onghia, exec­u­tive of the Regional Agri­cul­ture Ser­vice
  • Sil­vio Schito, head of the Plant Health Obser­va­tory
  • Giuseppe Blasi, head of Depart­ment of Euro­pean and Inter­na­tional Affairs and Rural Devel­op­ment of the Cen­tral Plant Health Ser­vice
  • Vito Nicola Savino, pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­sity of Bari and direc­tor of the research cen­ter Basile Caramia in Locoro­tondo
  • Franco Nigro, pro­fes­sor of plant pathol­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity of Bari
  • Donato Boscia, head of the oper­a­tional head­quar­ter of Bari Insti­tute for Sus­tain­able Plant Pro­tec­tion of CNR
  • Maria Saponari, a researcher at the same insti­tu­tion
  • Franco Valen­tini, researcher at Mediter­ranean Agro­nomic Insti­tute of Bari

The seizure includes all olive trees slated for removal in the emer­gency plan, all plants affected by vol­un­tary removal actions and all the plants already sub­jects of phy­tosan­i­tary mea­sures of injunc­tion issued by the Plant Health Obser­va­tory.
See more: Com­plete Cov­er­age of the Xylella Fas­tidiosa Out­break
Accord­ing to the pros­e­cu­tors, there is no proof of the effec­tive­ness of the erad­i­ca­tion of the olive trees amid the wide­spread des­ic­ca­tion, which has not been directly linked to Xylella. In the 58-page decree, it is also hypoth­e­sized that a dan­ger to pub­lic health is caused by the use of pes­ti­cides that are harm­ful to the envi­ron­ment, yet per­mit­ted since 2008, when the Xylella emer­gency was still not offi­cially declared.

Since the dis­ease of des­ic­ca­tion of the olive trees appeared and its cause has not been iden­ti­fied,” the pros­e­cu­tors declared, a series of exper­i­ments were con­ducted in Salento with the use of highly inva­sive prod­ucts, so as to be pro­hib­ited by law, in a con­text of seri­ously com­pro­mised envi­ron­ment, with­out any prior study of the impact that these prod­ucts would have on the envi­ron­ment and in par­tic­u­lar of the con­se­quences that they could pos­si­bly pro­duce on bac­te­ria already present and silent.”

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The analy­sis of olive trees in San Marzano di San Giuseppe (province of Taranto) and Giov­inazzo (Bari), with the same symp­toms of Salento plants, but tested neg­a­tive for Xylella, are evi­dence, inves­ti­ga­tors said, that the symp­toms of severe des­ic­ca­tion of the olive trees is not nec­es­sar­ily asso­ci­ated with the pres­ence of the bac­terium, as it is not yet been shown that the bac­terium, and only the bac­terium, causes the des­ic­ca­tion.”

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