`Italian Court Orders Halt to Destruction of Olive Trees in Puglia


Italian Court Orders Halt to Destruction of Olive Trees in Puglia

Oct. 27, 2015
Isabel Putinja

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An Ital­ian regional court has tem­porar­ily sus­pended the destruc­tion of olive trees in Puglia fol­low­ing a com­plaint filed by 21 olive grow­ers demand­ing proof that their trees are infected by Xylella fas­tidiosa.

On Octo­ber 14, the court ordered a sus­pen­sion of the felling of sick trees until Novem­ber 4, allow­ing time for fur­ther tests can be con­ducted to deter­mine exactly which dis­ease has infected the trees.

The Xylella fas­tidiosa bac­terium, spread by insects, has been blamed for the dev­as­ta­tion of over 74,000 acres of olive groves in Puglia’s Salento region, located in the heel” of Italy’s boot.”

In response to the cri­sis, an action plan was imple­mented by the Ital­ian com­mis­sioner respon­si­ble for the State Forestry of Apu­lia, Giuseppe Sil­letti, which called for the selec­tive uproot­ing of infected trees. This was backed by Euro­pean Union mea­sures rec­om­mend­ing the destruc­tion of all infected olive trees, as well as those within a 100-meter radius.
See more: Com­plete Cov­er­age of the Xylella Fas­tidiosa Out­break
The erad­i­ca­tion mea­sures were met from the begin­ning with oppo­si­tion from olive grow­ers and activists, who wanted to avoid the destruc­tion of Puglia’s olive trees, some of which are hun­dreds of years old.

There is also the ques­tion of whether the trees are really infected by Xylella fas­tidiosa, as to date there is no hard evi­dence it is the solo cause of the dev­as­tat­ing ill­ness in the trees.


Many are ques­tion­ing whether erad­i­ca­tion is the only and best solu­tion, and if it can really stop the spread of the bac­terium.

Activists have joined hands with olive grow­ers to fight the destruc­tion of trees via legal chan­nels, and have encour­aged the plant­ing of new seedlings in an act of civil dis­obe­di­ence. Pro­tes­tors have climbed trees and blocked roads to pre­vent the forestry depart­ment from reach­ing the trees tagged for removal.

A crowd­fund­ing cam­paign is under­way to raise funds to cover the €1,000 fine olive grow­ers can be levied for non­com­pli­ance. Grow­ers whose trees have been marked for erad­i­ca­tion must either cut down their trees them­selves or allow the forestry depart­ment to do it in exchange for com­pen­sa­tion for their losses.

The mora­to­rium is a tem­po­rary vic­tory for the olive grow­ers who ini­ti­ated the law­suit and the activists sup­port­ing them, as they await sci­en­tific proof of whether their trees are infected by Xylella fas­tidiosa. How­ever, Sil­letti is demand­ing that the forestry depart­ment con­tinue with its action plan, under which 1,000 trees have already been destroyed.

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