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.
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.
See more: Complete Coverage of the Xylella Fastidiosa Outbreak
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.