(translated by Leila Carlyle)
The Ministry of Agriculture has released a report on what has been done so far to analyze and combat the spread of the quarantine bacterium ‘Xylella fastidiosa’. (CLICK HERE).
From October 2014 to June 2015, of the 23,266 trees tested (98% of which were olive trees) 612 trees were found to be positive for Xylella, that is, 1.8% of the sample.
The trees are all in the infected area, namely the province of Lecce and the area around Oria (in the province of Brindisi).
On 6 July 2015, in view of the upcoming meeting of the European Committee on Plant Health, the Ministry of Agriculture sent the EU Commission the monitoring data with the results of the analysis and a report of all the measures taken to “eradicate the pathogen.”
However, during the Committee on Plant Health held in Brussels on 9 July, that is, three days after the submission of the report, the Committee asked for further details, particularly epidemiological data and data on the biology of the vector (in this case the insect Philaenus spumarius), to guarantee that the measures being implemented are effective.
As researchers from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) in the UK had in fact highlighted, in a study commissioned by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and which Xylella Report has noted and commented on, such data is lacking.
The study of the vector, commissioned by EFSA at the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) of Bari, will be ready by the end of 2015.
The sampling data, though, confirm the percentage published (on 20 April) in the investigative book “Xylella report”: that is, only 1.8% of the sample has tested positive for Xylella.
However, considering that other sampling and other analyzes carried out on the same trees by other research centers have produced conflicting results, one has to wonder how reliable these methods are.
Official data from the Ministry has also brought to light another element from the analysis: the epidemic has not been advancing. In the infected area, the percentage of trees positive for Xylella has remained equal to 1.8%, even after two years.
The MEP Rosa D’amato (M5S) has emphasized this. It would seem that there is no Xylella ‘emergency’, at least in the sense of an ‘epidemiological’ emergency. On the contrary, the emergency is that which is being dictated by the incapacity of management of the Puglia region.
If the above information were to be confirmed by the epidemiological analysis asked for by the Plant Health Committee of the EU, would this not undermine the case for receiving reimbursements for “natural disaster by plant disease”?
Furthermore, should these trees that have tested positive for Xylella – or 1.8% of the sample – be considered ‘epidemic’ or ‘isolated case’?
If they were to be considered ‘isolated case’, then, according to Article 5 of the introductory notes to the Implementing Decision of the EU adopted on 18 May this year, there would not be an obligation to ‘demarcate areas’ and measures to be implemented would be far milder.
The organic farms who have joined together as the ‘Comitato SOS – Salviamo Ora il Salento’ (‘Save Salento Now Committee’) are basing their application to the Court of Justice on these concepts. Xylella Report is supporting Comitato SOS by donating part of the income from sales of the investigative book “Xylella report”.