New and ‘more targeted’ measures to contain the spread of Xylella fastidiosa in the European Union (EU) have been announced by the European Commission (EC), Olive Oil Times reported on 21 August.

Xylella fastidiosa is a deadly bacterium that has killed millions of olive trees in southern Italy and is threatening those in Spain and Greece.

Olive Oil Times said the EC had decided to change the regulations, which had come into force in 2015, based on the latest research from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

One of the main changes was the reduction in the infection zone from a 100m radius of any infected plant to a 50m radius. However, the definition of which plants should be uprooted in the infection zone had not changed substantially.

The decision to reduce the infection zone was expected to be welcomed by farmers, many of whom had argued that the original 100m zone had been excessive and had led to the destruction of too many healthy trees, according to Olive Oil Times.

Another change involved the halving of the size of the associated buffer zone, which was designed to prevent the spread of Xylella fastidiosa to unaffected areas.

The original regulations had specified that all buffer zones had to have a width of at least 5-10km but under the new specifications, the buffer zone would now extend 2.5-5km. The width of the buffer zone would depend on whether the disease was actively spreading and what eradication measures had been taken.

If a single plant had been infected and removed before the disease had spread, the buffer zone would remain at 1km as in the previous regulations.

The new regulations also called on EU member states to ‘intensify’ their annual surveys in order to identify outbreaks more quickly.

The EC had also concluded that in specific areas, including southern Puglia, the French island of Corsica and Spain’s Balearic Islands, eradication of the disease was no longer feasible and instead local authorities should concentrate their efforts on containment.

If left unchecked, the EU feared Xylella fastidiosa would lead to an annual production loss of €5.5bn (US$6.5bn) and eliminate 300,000 jobs, Olive Oil Times said.