Farmers Protest Eradication Plan in Spain

The fifth outbreak of Xylella fastidiosa in six months has led the Spanish government to take drastic measures as it tries to prevent the spread of the plant pathogen.

Data from surveys of Xf cases in Alicante province
Jan. 19, 2018
By Daniel Dawson
Data from surveys of Xf cases in Alicante province

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Protesters in Alicante will for­mally peti­tion the Ministry of Agriculture, Environment, Climate Change and Regional Planning to halt the destruc­tion of healthy olive and almond trees in the region.

The Platform for those Affected by Xylella fas­tidiosa in Alicante (AXFA) pre­sented their appeal at a gen­eral assem­bly meet­ing in Castell de Guadalest.

Destroying healthy, rain-fed trees is an eco­log­i­cal and land­scap­ing aber­ra­tion that, if it occurs, will mark the begin­ning of the end of our forests, of our peo­ple, of life in these areas.- Adolfo Ribes, AXFA

The appeal was approved and now the group, which is com­posed of more than 100 local farm­ers, will sub­mit it in court.

According to Adolfo Ribes, the AXFA spokesman, the appeal is nec­es­sary to tem­porar­ily stop the destruc­tion of healthy trees as well as to begin legal pro­ce­dures for the imple­men­ta­tion of a con­tain­ment plan.

The Valencian admin­is­tra­tion has not dared to defend us, nei­ther before the rest of the Autonomous Communities of our coun­try, nor before our Ministry nor before Brussels,” he said.

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ASAJA Alicante and AXFA have a firm con­vic­tion that destroy­ing healthy, rain-fed trees is an eco­log­i­cal and land­scap­ing aber­ra­tion that, if it occurs, will mark the begin­ning of the end of our forests, of our peo­ple, of life in these areas.”

This is the fifth out­break of the plant pathogen in the region since June. Due to the fre­quency of the out­breaks, the European Union (EU) has told the Spanish gov­ern­ment that it will pro­vide funds for the erad­i­ca­tion plan stip­u­lated by the European Commission.

Strict erad­i­ca­tion mea­sures apply, con­sist­ing of a clear cut of all host plants of the spe­cific sub­species of Xylella fas­tidiosa, irre­spec­tive of their health sta­tus, in a radius of 100 meters around the infected plants,” an EU spokesper­son said.

Although these mea­sures impact on the local agro-econ­omy, they are needed in the inter­est of the Union as a whole in order to pre­serve EU agri­cul­ture, as well as pub­lic and pri­vate gar­dens.”

The EU’s rig­or­ous erad­i­ca­tion plan was made and approved with numer­ous sci­en­tific con­sul­ta­tions. The plan would involve destroy­ing count­less more trees than those that are infected, which has led to wide­spread protests in Alicante.

Data from surveys of Xf cases in Alicante province

Razing all of the trees, both the healthy and the sick, is not the solu­tion, because we are no longer iso­lated cases,” Eladio Aniorte, the pres­i­dent of ASAJA Alicante, said. The infes­ta­tions have spread to three regions, and there is a high prob­a­bil­ity that new out­breaks will be announced soon.”

Aniorte and Ribes have both called on the Spanish gov­ern­ment to pub­lish the results of more than 7,000 test sam­ples it has taken in order for all those affected to know the true scope of the dis­ease.

Aniorte said a con­tain­ment plan could be equally effec­tive with­out incur­ring mas­sive dam­age to the region’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor. He also pointed out that Alicante is espe­cially impor­tant to Spanish agri­cul­ture since it receives more rain­fall than neigh­bor­ing com­mu­ni­ties, which also grow olives and almonds.

We can not under­stand why the Council does not work to bring to the Ministry and Brussels a con­tain­ment plan that replaces the erad­i­ca­tion plan,” he said. It’s an equally effec­tive pro­to­col to pre­vent the spread of the infes­ta­tions, but less aggres­sive with those affected and the ter­ri­tory.”

Xylella fas­tidiosa has plagued south­ern Italy for five years now, forc­ing the gov­ern­ment to cut down tens of thou­sands of olive trees. Farmers in Italy have protested and also ques­tion whether the EU’s method is effec­tive.

Back in Spain, farm­ers and min­is­ters are both con­cerned about the poten­tial for the con­tin­u­ing expan­sion of the dis­ease, even if they do not agree on how to stop it.





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