UN Issues New Standards to Curb Spread of Xylella

Updated fumigation standards, new ground rules for international trade in agricultural products and the development of new technologies to screen plants and plant products for diseases were among the standards approved by the body.

At a recent meeting in Rome, the international body responsible for preventing the spread of diseases and implementing safe plant trading practices met to adopt new standards meant to curb the spread of Xylella fastidiosa, as well as five other pest-borne diseases.

The standards that the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) agreed to implement included protocols to block the spread of invasive pests, such as the olive fruit fly, from crossing international borders.

“With increased trade and travel, the risks of plant pests spreading into new areas across borders is now higher than ever before,” Bukar Tijani, the assistant director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, told the gathering.

“Each day, we witness a shocking number of threats to the well-being of our plants and, by extension, to our health, environment and economy,” he added.

The FAO, which runs the commission, estimates that Xylella fastidiosa has been responsible for the destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of olive trees across the Americas, Europe and Asia.

In Italy alone, it is estimated that the disease has destroyed 445,000 acres of olive trees, costing millions of Euros of damage. Xylella fastidiosa has also infected olive trees in both Spain’s Balearic Islands and France. The disease has also been identified on Spain’s mainland, but so far only in almond and cherry trees.

According to a study recently released by the University of Málaga, there is also concern that the disease could spread to Africa, Australia and parts of East Asia as well. More