The EU must take effective measures to prevent the spread of Xylella fastidiosa bacteria beyond Italy, where it is severely damaging olive trees, says a resolution passed by Parliament on Wednesday. MEPs welcome EU import restrictions on plants from affected areas in third countries but say more may be needed. They also urge that growers be compensated for their losses, and suggest stepping up funding for research to combat the bacteria, which may attack other plants.
MEPs welcome the EU decision to restrict imports of plants from affected areas in third countries, including the suspension of coffee plant imports from Costa Rica and Honduras, but blame the European Commission for often not reacting quickly enough to prevent plant diseases entering the EU. The resolution was approved by 507 votes to 115, with 37 abstentions,
To safeguard EU territory, the EU’s official plant health check system should be reviewed and if need be, the Commission should not shy away from introducing stronger import-restrictive measures, MEPs say.
Parliament calls for an increase in the means available to detect harmful organisms at EU borders, and also suggests that member states should step up regular internal inspections to prevent the spread of Xylella beyond the demarcated areas.
Xylella has many hosts and could attack other plants, including almond, peach and citrus trees, ornamental plants and vineyards, warn MEPs. They stress the need to run information campaigns in potentially affected areas and to alert not only farmers but also retailers of ornamental plants, gardeners and travellers to the threat.
Compensate growers, invest in research
Parliament urges the Commission and member states to compensate growers for eradication measures and loss of revenue, including that from tourism-related activities. MEPs also call on the Commission to use all possible funds and instruments to assist economic recovery in the affected areas and give growers incentives to take preventive measures.
The Commission should promote intensified research efforts, including increased international networking, as a matter of urgency, MEPs say. They also suggest making more funds available for scientific research on Xylella.
Xylella fastidiosa is of highly dangerous immediate threat to production, especially in southern Europe. No treatment is currently available for diseased plants in the field and affected plants tend either to remain infected for life or to collapse quickly.
Procedure: Non-legislative resolution