Olive oil under threat due to a bacteria killing trees in the Mediterranean

Olive oil could be under threat due to a strain of bacteria which is killing trees in the Mediterranean.

Food writer Sophie Grigson said one part of Italy that has been hit by the disease looks like a “nuclear war” with “field after field of dead trees”.

The celebrity cook, who lives in Puglia, Italy, said the whole Mediterranean could end up losing olive oil if a solution is not found.

Speaking on the My Time Capsule podcast, she said: “The olive tree is so important to the Mediterranean culture but it’s under threat. It’s a total tragedy. Puglian olive trees have been decimated by a ­bacteria called Xylella.

“Even in the four years that I have been here, it’s moving up the Puglian provincia.” Xylella is a bacterium that limits a tree’s ability to move water and nutrients, so over time it dies.

Grigson, 64, added: “It’s destroyed such a huge area, someone said to me it’s destroyed millions of trees already. It’s devastating. I live in the centre of Puglia. If you drive towards the south – about 10km from me – you start seeing the trees with Xylella.

“If you drive towards Lecce, the main town in the south of Puglia, it’s like there has been some kind of nuclear war. There’s just field after field of dead trees.” Grigson said Xylella has recently hit Greece and although money has been pumped into research, she suspects it is “not enough”.

She added: “If they don’t work out how to at least control it, the whole of the Mediterranean will end up losing their olive trees. I want the world to know we need to preserve the olive oil and the olive tree.”

Grigson said actress Helen Mirren, 78, has also been campaigning, adding: “I hope she will carry on doing that.”

Mirren has a holiday home in Tiggiano, Italy, and has often discussed the outbreak.

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