Xylella Fastidiosa: does it have a positive side?

Why are we talking about Xylella Fastidiosa? Because it seems to us to be an emblematic example of how our society develops: first we destroy the ecosystem, then we home in on a single factor as though it was the only pathological element.

Let’s look at a parallel: antibiotics have become inadequate or even ineffective combating diseases that were once regarded as easily treatable. A simple cold can nowadays lead to very severe health problems. The blame is placed on the tolerance developed by the bacteria and their ability to change themselves, but in reality it is simply the result of the way we have misused them. Just think of the antibiotics that we consume daily when we eat meat from livestock raised in places where they are used indiscriminately.

Xylella has always existed, and there are dozens of different types that live on different types of plants, from peaches to cherries to plums. Fastidiosa was officially “discovered” in 1987 when it became a serious problem due to its ability to penetrate olive trees and cause them to scorch, wilt and eventually die. It should be stressed that XF can attack other plants including vines and citruses. It is a bacteria that compromises the pathways by which sap moves through the plant, transporting water and mineral salts throughout the plant’s system. Can science find a solution to this problem?

Science is never “neutral”: frequently it responds to the needs of those who hold political and/or economic power. Leonardo da Vinci moved from Florence to Milan and from there to France, where he found funding and support for his projects, especially those with military applications. In theory, scientists and researchers should be able to access funds and take into account existing social, enivronmental, economic and cultural conditions. Unfortunately that does not happen; instead the results of research that shows environmental degradation (air, water, soil, biodiversity, etc) are often ignored.

“Monodirectional” research on Xylella Fastidiosa has concentrated on the bacteria, regarding it as extremely dangerous. Furthermore, since it has proved impossible to reach a state of scientific certainty about its spread, in order to control it people have resorted to a single precautionary method, that of destroying all the trees, whether they are diseased or not.

It’s as though when winter comes, bringing with it the risk of the spread of Spanish or Asian flu, we were to decide to kill all the patients and their families. This is not a joke: it has happened both in the past and more recently.

So let’s try looking at the problem from a different perspective: the relationship between plants and the soil. In order to understand this relationship, we suggest watching the Plant Health Cure video “Soil is a living organism“.

In just a few minutes we come to understand that life runs through the soil around the roots of trees and plants and that only thanks to their interaction with bacteria and fungi do they obtain the vital sap that allows them to live and flourish. But what happens if we destroy this life around the roots? The video shows this very well. Mechanical digging, and the use of pesticides, weedkillers and chemical fertilisers alter and impede the natural biological cycle. They destroy fungi and bacteria, opening the way to diseases and pandemics.

That this applies also to Xylella and olive trees can be found in studies by a number of researchers whose work is disregarded by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). This point is stressed by Vandana Shiva in a video addressed to the people of Puglia where the digging up of olive trees, some of them hundreds of years old, has created an intolerable situation for farmers and locals.

The video is part of a documentary, still in production, about the Xylella Fastidiosa issue. The documentary is being produced by Bosco di Ogigia and financed through crowdfunding. On 29 May in Rome the creators presented an evening of debate with the provocative title “Xylella Favolosa, oltre il batterio” (XF beyond the bacteria).