The EU is being railroaded into a plan to eradicate up to 1 million centuries-old olive trees in one of the most picturesque tourist spots of southern Italy, campaigners say, causing untold environmental damage in the mistaken belief that such radical action could contain an outbreak of a killer bug.
The Salento peninsula in Apulia, the region that forms the heel of Italy’s boot, is the only part of the EU that has been affected by the Xylella fastidiosa bacterium.
Its olive trees have been progressively withering and dying in what has been dubbed drying-out syndrome.
Other EU states are keen to snuff out the outbreak, detected in October 2013, since dozens of other crops, such as grape-bearing vines or citrus trees, could also come under attack, although the contagiousness of the Italian strand of the bug has not yet been fully studied.
“The French are absolutely terrified that it could affect their wine industry,” one EU source says, adding that other olive-oil-producing nations, such as Spain, also have strong concerns.
Authorities in Apulia have responded to the epidemic by drawing up quarantine maps that foresee a 1-million-hectare eradication zone in the province of Lecce. Trees selected for felling have been marked with red crosses, and the chopping should start Monday (30 March)….
read more: euobserver.com