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Italy’s olive crisis intensifies as deadly tree disease spreads (nature.com)
373 points by paganel 65 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 195 comments

I'm an olive and almond producer in Portugal.

In preparation for this very serious issue, since that the only thing I can do is to minimize the risk of infection, I tell all personnel to spray bleach on trimming scissors for each tree, the case of high density orchards, and for every 10-15 trees (or each row) in super high density orchards.

I also try to monitor for infection vectors like Cicadellidae, and for possible ill trees in the vicinities.

I will report any suspect case to the authorities, be it my neighbours' or my own.

I am also looking for affordable insurance that covers this kind of problem.

Also related to new agricultural issues arising from globalisation and worthy of attention are the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha), the water hyacinth (Eichhornia ssp.), and the Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) that obstruct irrigation pipes.

I'm curious, what brought you to Hacker News?

It's fascinating the variety of people who contribute here, and I'm wondering what would bring a Portuguese farmer to a site centered around technology and entrepreneurship.

(I suppose I could equally ask why this site would be discussing a bacterial outbreak in Italian olive trees, and the answer could be "because it's interesting" to both questions.)

I really like Hacker News, and I usually read my tech-related news here first. Farming is kind of the family business, and I love it.

I am also a physicist by training, and thus my interest in technology in general. Agriculture is becoming increasingly technological, and everything from farming gadgets to John Deere tractors hacking has come up many times. There are even some Plasma Physics applications to agriculture, so the interdisciplinarity never ends!

The "because it's interesting" is also an accurate answer!

> There are even some Plasma Physics applications to agriculture, so the interdisciplinarity never ends!

You can't just casually mention this without further explanation! :D

Thanks, finally got around to reading it!

> In explaining the results, Koga says that the plasma treatment speeds up the cell cycle so that the plant and seeds grow faster overall, with reactive oxygen species playing a key role in the effects.

Very cool! :)

> Nevertheless, Edward Bormashenko, professor of chemical engineering and biotechnology at Ariel University in Israel, says the situation was “more complicated than these results might indicate.” Pointing to his own team’s plasma research using seeds of lentils, beans, and wheat, he says: “There is no general approach available yet that can be applied to different kinds of seeds. Much depends on the types of seeds used, the conditions under which they geminate, and other factors.”

That is really cool, but I immediately have a follow-up question: given that plants also rely on a healthy soil ecosystem, which means symbiotic bacteria, and that this plasma treatment definitely will kill any trace bacteria on the skins of these cells, has it been explored if this has any effect?

Kind of like how you read all these stories of how the increase in C-sections results in a loss of transfer of healthy symbiotic bacteria from the mother to the child.

Ah, I feel a bit dumb for not realizing what kind of applications these would be, because I really should know better: back in 2002, when I still tried studying physics, I was part of a committee that organized a student symposium on biomedical technology. One of the speakers was Eva Stoffels, who had recently invented a low-energy plasma needle. Believe it or not, she claimed her motivation was ridding the world of the dental drill.

It's actually really interesting what you can do with plasma's in a biomedical context: bacteria are killed off really quickly by them because they lack a cell wall, without destroying human cells. At higher intensities, the plasma first breaks down the proteins connecting cells without killing them. At even higher intensities, they trigger apoptosis: programmed cell death without inflammations. Oh, and cancer cells are less resilient against them.

In the case of Stoffels' plasma needle, the idea was that it would destroy the infection while leaving healthy tissue intact. Not only that, her team found that the plasma's ionized the teeth in such a way that enamel production was increased. It sounded amazing at the time, but I guess it's hard to get this stuff out of the lab into the medical market though, since it has been over fifteen years now.

> bacteria are killed off really quickly by them because they lack a cell wall, without destroying human cells.

CORRECTION: I mixed up my terminology here. Bacteria have a cell wall (as do plants), human cells have a cell membrane[0][1]. But our cell membrane, as well as the cell wall of plant cells, are better at keeping the plasma ions out than the bacterial cell wall. In fact, the reason high plasma doses trigger apoptosis is because we actually use plasma ions as a cellular communication channel, IIRC. Would be hard to do that if our cells weren't protected against free plasma ions, right?

So the point still stands that bacteria die from plasma ion bombardment at doses that are harmless to human and plant cells.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_wall#Bacterial_cell_walls

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cell_membrane

I'm a programmer and I ended up following a farmer on Youtube [1] originally because he walked through all the tech he used on his tractor (ie, Fieldview) and elsewhere on the farm in a couple videos. I watch his videos whenever they come up now.

I love the level of organization and precision that industry is gaining. It's a good inspiration for software in other traditional areas (combined with practical AI applications and DIY hardware as well).

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwz2NribLYo

To tie this all together, I'm a programmer and (small time) olive farmer who worked on FieldView, among other products.

Small world.

I come to Hacker News for these kind of random recommendations.

A couple times a year it really pays off with random Gold you wouldn't get from any other forum.

Wasn't expecting such an interesting comment here! So many links to read later! Just came here because I like olive oil

> agriculture is becoming increasingly technological

depends, the european CAP has subsidized old-style agriculture which has left many regions way behind, and the regulatory frameworkd is so tight that, despite the fact that many countries are producing a lot of research (on GMOs for example), it's not likely to ever be used.

I wonder how big is technology adoption in Portugal

Subsidizing old-style agriculture has two major benefits in my opinion: i) it allows for a smoother transition towards more advanced practices without crushing regular farmers and ii) it helps containing production surpluses, which has been, historically, a major concern in the European Union.

Regulations also help with avoiding surpluses, raising the bar for food safety, and have the added benefit of (arguably) fostering adaptability while giving the Union a relative protection from external markets.

Regarding the technological adoption in Portugal, I guess it depends on the sector you're considering. I really can't speak for other areas, but in the case of agriculture there have been some major investments in the past that allow for more productive practices even if not supported by major breakthroughs. It's mostly automation of harvesting, adoption of new practices and new pesticides, quality control and more training.

So far behind that there is still a local economy based around farm work and hedgerows for wildlife.

Both those things may be regarded by many people as putting them out in front.

Can you invert a binary tree?

No. But I did some research on tree-like hierarchical associative memories. They have branches and all!

Do you use electronics to monitor / help farming ?

Yes: not considering everything that comes with a tractor these days, it's basically irrigation programmers, pH meters, humidity probes, sonars and speed-adjustment controllers for sprayers.

I hope someday I will be able to show HN some simple electronics of my own.

Interesting, do you think they improve yield and/or decrease workload ?

The irrigation controls have a direct and significant impact in yield. Other tools raise profitability by contributing to greater efficacy and less waste. The pH meter, for example, pretty much payed itself the first time it was used.

I'm asking because I was interested in reviving (at my scale) farming on my mother's caribbean island. Lots of space, sun and rain, but farming is still seen as a burden (remains of colonialism organization). I think there's a lot of things to be improved to make it both simpler, greener (ketone was used for decades there). Ultimately to give people back the amazing vegetables that grow there naturally and avoid importing low quality ones (also social benefits of people being in nature more).

Do you have advices or references to read about this ?

I know nothing about agriculture in the Caribbean, but I would suggest taking advantage of the local produce and starting there.

Do you have any ideas on what you want to grow?

I checked the Caribbean Agriculture Agricultural Research and Development's website (www.cardi.org) for some information. They have annual reports, that stop at 2011 for some reason. I would read some of them to get an idea of what are the current trends.

One idea that comes to mind after reading the 2011 report is producing high quality seeds. Grain prices for direct consumption are not as interesting.

I would also search for local farming associations to get to know what people are doing.

I suspect that the Caribbean will be more susceptible to climate change than other regions, so food security might become very important in a near future.

Good luck!

Mostly local indeed, but I don't think all local would make a fully balanced diet so maybe a few other things. If you step outside the road you can easily find trees loaded with varieties of oranges, citrus, coconuts, avocados .. I'd start with that and see for the rest

Many thanks for the links, I don't think I would have googled for that.

I will ask local farmers when I get the chance to, but few reports that I had by inhabitants is that .. farming is mostly avoided (laziness, pollution, whatever). To the point where they import things that used to grow locally from netherlands.

I'm also surprised about the climate change thing, I imagined a volcanic island to be too dynamic to be affected as much as, say, Europe.

There are organizations out there like the Puerto Rico Resilience Fund. Maybe they might be able to help/know someone. I read an article that sounds like they have a great solidarity network.

Wow! You need to check out Augmenta.ag

It is not uncommon to own olive orchards in southern europe (a family thing). I have olives too.

Same here, family tradition. Hello from Slovenia. We are also closely monitoring the situation in Italy. There are other plants that can be infected by X. fastidiosa and should be monitored for signs of disease for example here we are worried about oleander plants that were imported from South Italy.

Ditto (from Croatia).

I never understood the obsession with oleander around these parts. It's (in my humble opinion) not any prettier than "native" ornamentals, and it's toxic to boot.

Add to that list that it's apparently an eager vector for X. fastidiosa...

Olive trees are planted decoratively and for crops here, but they're messy trees to have in city neighborhoods.

The wild variety (Olea oleaster) is not as messy.

I spent a few days in around Beja in Baixo Alentejo this year, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beja,_Portugal The area with new new olive plantations is simply staggering as producers race to capitalize on the shortages in other Mediterranean countries. The fields (in effect, mini prairies) are so large I think this is only going to hasten the spread of disease it will simply be impossible to exercise proper hygiene or quarantine procedures over such large areas.

I wish all growers were as responsible and fore-sighted as you, good luck.


One way to minimize the risk is to quarantine the batches in stub nurseries, and to be as zealous as one can regarding the sanitary passports.

In the past, Alentejo had many orchards that, thanks to the State policy of the dictatorial regime, were drastically replaced by large fields for cereal production. This resulted in what is now known as the pseudo-steppe (of a particular ecological interest), which is recognized today as the traditional landscape of Alentejo.

Many regret the sudden change into olive production, but few know how things were different a century ago.

E como era a região, antigamente, antes do Estado Novo? Que interessante.

Só aí à dois anos é que aprendi que o eucalipto que tanto cobria o mato ao redor da aldeia, quando eu era pequeno, não é natural na europa.

Segundo sei havia mais árvores de fruto: laranjais, pomares, figueiras, e também amendoais. Os olivais eram de sequeiro, e no meio fazia-se cereal.

Zebra mussels are a big problem where I grew up. The bay of Green Bay is very unfriendly to the barefoot swimmer because of them (they leave sharp little shells behind). I can't really think of a way to get rid of them short of making some sort of robotic fleet to go and kill them all.

Even worse, the DNR doesn't really want to get involved for fear of upsetting the ecosystem. Someone went as far as to make a machine that makes faux sand from zebra mussel shells (which pile up everywhere along the shore), but he got shutdown because of the unknown environmental impact.

I’m unfamiliar with the particulars here. Do you have to plant olives and almonds in different fields or do they mostly like the same sun soil and water conditions?

There has been a push by some people to plant multiple perennials in the same fields to improve soil quality but also to reduce the ease of spread of pathogens (because the next potential host is far away by insect and spore standards).

Would it make sense in this case, especially if you’re cleaning tools as a prophylaxis as well?

They're in different fields. Almond trees are more susceptible to soil moisture and need better drainage. Pest control is different, and having them all together means farmers would have to spray both crops for a problem only one of them has, and a given pesticide may be allowed for almond trees but not for olive trees (e.g. the insecticide phosmet is not allowed in olive trees destined for olive oil; lambda-cyhalothrin applications are limited to two per campaign in olive orchards; many recommend against using glyphosate for weed control in the first years of an almond orchard.)

There are some annuals that might be interesting, such as clover, that help with erosion and nitrogen fixation. Native plants serve as buffers for auxiliary species and some (Brassicaceae) act as a prophylactic against fungal infections (Verticillium). Innoculation with mycorrhizae also helps.

Perennials might be interesting in riparian zones, to help with drainage and unusual surges of flow.

Portuguese (Alentejano) fellow with some olive trees (not aimed at production) - if this spreads do you think it will start in the south or it won't matter?


I don't think it will matter, because many times the problem starts at the nursery. There are many nurseries, both inside the EU but also outside, like Morocco for example. When orchards are being installed across the country, it really could start anywhere. Weather does not seem to have any importance in the spreading of the disease.

What happened with the palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) doesn't necessarily apply here: X. fastidiosa infects a wide range of plants including ornamental plants, so it is really a matter of 'when', not 'if' or 'where'.[1]

As of February 2017, there were 132 confirmed cases in Balearic Islands that are now considered lost for the bacteria.[1] As far as I know, there are no confirmed cases in Morocco, which is why many farmers look there for safe nurseries.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xylella_fastidiosa#Hosts [2]https://www.elmundo.es/baleares/2017/02/28/58b5aec5e2704e067... (Spanish)

Are there any sensors you can use to monitor health of trees programmatically?

"These plant defenses do not seem to hinder the movement of X. fastidiosa. Occlusion of vascular tissue, while a normal plant response to infection, makes symptoms significantly worse: as the bacteria itself also reduces vascular function, a 90% reduction of vascular hydraulic function was seen in susceptible Vitis vinifera."

Some type of low energy Bluetooth moisture sensors or a sensor you can stick in the tree itself to monitor reduction in "vascular hydraulic function? of it's xylem tissue?

That wouldn't scale because of the range and topology of BLE. Solar-powered micropower 900 MHz modules with built-in microcontrollers would be a basis for a viable solution. 900 MHz carries much further for a given power and isn't as susceptible to attenuation due to foilage.

Source: did industrial 900 MHz and 2.4 GHz module testing, once upon a time.

Very cool, thanks for the info!

I know next to nothing in this area, but what is the possibility of grafting non-susceptible varietals onto the olive trees? I know that worked for France back when they grafted Texan vines onto their own during the grape phylloxera epidemic - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_French_Wine_Blight

There are no known cultivars of olive that are resistant to X. fastidiosa.

Phylloxera attacks the root, and so grafting with resistant stocks protects the scion.

In the case of X. fastidiosa, the bacteria can spread on the whole adult structures of the plant when infected vectors feed on the xylem, so grafting is not a solution.

In Portugal, Phylloxera became a synonym for madness, since the losses were colossal. I fear that Xylella fastidiosa might become the next "madness"...

Lake Winnipeg, near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is the 11th largest fresh water lake in the world and became infected with zebra mussels in 2015. Already, things are looking bleak.

I'm curious: Are there growing concerns and stress about rain patterns (climate/weather), desertification and irrigation water rights?


Climate change has brought difficulties in weather forecasting and dam management. Major rivers in Portugal have their sources in Spain, which gives this country a relative position of power in water storage in times of need. In the past, Portugal did make the case that Spain did not respect the law regarding water usage. Weather extremes are also important because of damage and insurance coverage.

Irrigation based in artificial reservoirs creates the risk of salination, which is already being monitored. I get regular reports on the quality of the water I use.

Are there any sensors you can use to monitor health of trees programmatically?

I'm Italian and I come from Puglia. It strikes me directly. It's a hard punch in the stomach, problem is that people don't want to remove this old trees, they are even centuries old and so they make the disease spread more and more as time progress and as a matter of fact the olive oil selling is their only income. The state failed, they had no direct order to remove the trees nor economical help. As an example in my father field where we grow olive oil trees, there are few that has this disease, but my father hasn't removed them, it's a cost we can't afford. Now put a lot of ignorant agriculturist old men without money that have has the only source of income selling olive oil in front of this disease and you get the results.

While at the grocery store yesterday I noticed that the store had a few shelves of cutting boards and bowls made of olive wood. They're made from non-producing olive trees in Tunisia. The little blurb on the cutting board suggested that the Tunisians cut down the trees once they stop producing.

I wonder if there's enough of a market that producing wood would incentivize cutting down infected trees. The grain is visually very distinctive and appealing and the items themselves weren't particularly cheap.

No, because the infected trees wood is crap and falls apart, it can't be used to make wood items or wooden stuff sadly :( And yes, the tree wood of healthy plants is amazing.

Oh that's a shame. On the other hand it's likely that olive growers can adapt (although this means that traditions will change). We've done it with bananas, and, to some extent, citrus.

When I was staying in southern Spain in February, the home had a fireplace. The local gas station sold olive tree firewood.

This points to the conclusion that some pruning of olive trees is going on on a regular basis. At the same time we saw plenty of gnarly old trees and wondered what the different philosophies of olive tree pruning/cycling are.

People outside of Italy are probably not aware of how seriously they take the topic of olive oil over there. The label "extra vergine" increases the price so much that there is a huge economic incentive for fraud. To combat this they have a taste police (literally) that checks that olive oil samples are not secretly mixes of fresh and old oil together. They are... quite opinionated, as you can see this exchange from when a Dutch journalist came to visit them and asked their opinion on the (supposedly) extra virgin that was sold in the Netherlands[0].

Taster: "This eh... oil is eh... very particular (...) It's Spanish!"

Journalist: "It's Spanish? I wouldn't know."

T: "Hah, now you know! This smell is very characteristic of Spanish olive oil."

J: "But this is not a defect, is it?"

T: "Yes."

J: "It's defective?"

T: "Yes."

J: "Because it's Spanish?"

Other taster: "For Italian people, yes."

A few minutes later[1], the boss comes with a more diplomatic answer:

"That the olive oil is Spanish is not a defect per sé, but within our guidelines we do consider it a defective product, because our own oil has a very specific smell and flavour. It's a fine product for Spain, but not for us."

EDIT: for the Europeans: the same program also revealed that Carbonell and Bertolli are the same Spanish company with a different label, with pretty much the same (mostly) Spanish olive oil. In case you care about that sort of thing. Personally I'm kind of curious how Greek olive oil fits in this picture.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkO1dwx2_KA&t=16m

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jkO1dwx2_KA&t=19m26s

In fact a lot of that "Italian" oil is superior Greek oil mixed with italian lampante


Greek olive oil exporters have a hard time exporting it to retail , because it is hard to secure the large quantities needed and it varies seasonally. Also a lot of it is consumed domestically, often not even sold in supermarkets, but directly from producers. The rest of it is exported in bulk in cheap prices, mainly in Italy.

I'm also picky about olive oil. I've heard about countless scams in Italy about fake olive oil on TV. Also to me most commercial olive oils from the South (Italy, Greece, Spain) taste quite mild/soft compared to our olive oil from "Istrska Belica" / "Bianchera" variety.

We make our own olive oil, it is not a commercial endeavour so quality is first above everything else even though this variety is a PITA to grow. It is difficult to prune, more susceptible to various fungal diseases, has a tendency to produce on alternating years but the flavor makes up for those troubles.

Most commercial olive oils use heat extraction, which can also mellow the flavor (in addition to factors like fruit maturity and variety).

We have almost 100 trees of a common variety ("Oblica") that is regarded as very mild, and a few local varieties ("Lastovka", etc) which is usually considered very spicy and flavorful.

But I've made mellow Lastovka oil and sensational Oblica. There are a lot of variables to manage.

P.S. Naš je najlipše ulje. Naravno.

In addition to Italy, Europe as a whole is pretty picky when it comes to olive oil. As an anglo who was introduced to authentic olive oil imported from Greece.. there is a very serious distinct taste difference between cheap and legitimate olive oil.

Many years ago I started using an Iraqi olive oil that I still love to cook with. I can only buy it in Turkish shops, but I've never been able to find anything else quite like it. I live in The Netherlands.

If you happen to visit a wine growing region try instead to go olive oil tasting. Typically the two go together and I find different olive oils much more interesting. In addition if you bring back 2 or 3 good bottles of oil they will last much longer than 2-3 bottles of wine.

I think that in the northern parts of Europe we still seem to be pretty oblivious, so I would limit that to the Mediterranean area. And having tasted proper local food during my trips there, I can't exactly blame the people from there for being picky. Like you said, the taste difference is huge, and there also is a large romantic component to it: most recipes are quite simple, but rely on using fresh ingredients. It's very anti-industrial by nature.

docbrown says> "there is a very serious distinct taste difference between cheap and legitimate olive oil."

Is there a taste/test that someone like me, who is a neophyte and definitely not an expert, could distinguish/use?

It should be "active" in your mouth, a bit peppery, and the taste should linger for a minute or more; it should taste like it's alive. It should be just slightly bitter and you should note a grassy flavor/aroma, like good Japanese green tea, as well as a distinct olive smell. It should be only barely acidic, as inferior oils have more acid.

If you're buying in a supermarket, you are almost always buying oil blends from multiple countries. Read the back of the label where a guide tells you where the oil came from; if you're lucky you can find one bottle that only came from one country. If at all possible, check the websites of the different options and see what production methods they use. Go with either first cold pressed (no added heat, pressed with mats to extract oil) or 2-centrifuge process.

If you're buying in an oil and vinegar tasting room, sample everything and go with what tastes best to you, because that's mostly the purpose of buying EVOO (in addition to the nutritional benefits of well produced EVOO). Ask the seller more questions and you will probably find that almost all the oils there are centrifuge-made, and they'll have maybe one bottle of mat-pressed oil in the back that's more expensive, and probably tastes drastically different than the rest.

You basically want to buy an expensive EVOO, and a cheap olive oil; the difference being that you would use regular olive oil for cooking, and EVOO for flavoring.

If you can find a way, try at least once to taste freshly pressed olive oil (by fresh I mean you are standing next to the oil press). This way you know for sure it hasn’t been blended or tampered with.

My grandparents would pick olives and press them. We would toast big loaves of bread on the coals and drench them in this fresh oil. It tastes totally different to what you can buy in the store (at least what I have had), or even how it tastes a week later. The peppery and acidic notes are surprisingly prominent, giving it a savoury quality that is very moreish. The texture is also quite different, it is thick and rich and heavy, but not greasy at all. It is kind of magic.

I am an Italian living in Vancouver, and I totally know what you are talking about. You can get pretty close to that by buying boutique cold-pressed olive oil. Here in Canada, I can only find it in high-end Italian grocery stores, and unfortunately the price is generally around 20-25 dollars / 500ml. But yes, you can find it.

> It tastes totally different to what you can buy in the store (at least what I have had), or even how it tastes a week later.

Weirdly enough that reminds me of colostrum, or first milk:


The first time I tried high quality olive oil was at at an Italian restaurant. The oil was delivered with a piece of freshly baked bread and a small container of salt flakes.

When I tasted it I thought it was unreal. It was that good.

I don't remember the restaurant or even where it was, but do remember the tasting experience!

>The first time I tried high quality olive oil >I thought it was unreal

For those people who may be having trouble understanding the comparison, this reaction would be the same reaction as if we were tasting supermarket hummus and legitimately homemade hummus.

One is McDonalds dry; the other is Michelin star silk.

Yes, exactly! The hummus comparison is spot on.

Another example: supermarket guacamole (that green weird-tasting paste) vs. guacamole from real avocados freshly made.

> supermarket guacamole

In the EU, the only requirement for being legally allowed to call something "guacamole" is that it contains avocado as an ingredient. In practice, that is usually a few percentages of avocado powder.

A side by side comparison. It's very hard to miss, unless your sense of smell is diminished for whatever reason.

To that I'd suggest reading https://lifehacker.com/the-most-and-least-fake-extra-virgin-.... Since then I've bought California olive oil and giggled at all of the Italian brands.

About the article, my honest first thought was, "Does it matter? They already weren't selling olive oil in the first place, now they just have to pretend harder."

"You might raise your eyebrows at the conclusion that Australian and California extra virgin olive oils are purer than most Italian olive oils, since the research was partially funded by the California Olive Ranch and the California Olive Oil Council and has ties with the Australian Olive Association"

Well, most Italian olive oils sold in California. I think that makes it a lot less surprising. The regulations of the oil fraud police of Italy only apply to Italy, after all.

Also of note that Italian companies tend to sell their best food at home, where competition is fiercer and taste is more discerning. The exported stuff is traditionally weaker, because foreign markets are less picky.

Perhaps, but that's five years old and there's been no serious refutation I've heard of.

It's not like there aren't legitimate reasons to back a study that might reveal something you've long suspected, e.g. that your competitors are frauds...

California Olive Ranch is a great brand. Can't recommend it highly enough.


Since that article is from 2011, I wanted to see if there was any follow-up research on that. Using the paper's title as a starting point on Google Scholar I could only find better techniques for checking, but no papers sampling many brands. Then I noticed that the PDF was hosted on "olivecenter.ucdavis.edu"[0]. Going to that website revealed no further research either. In fact, the research tab of their menu links to example.com[1]. Bit annoying, that.

[0] http://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/what-we-do/report%20041211%20...

[1] https://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/

“Research” seems to be branch node, with live links only on the leaves, “Projects”, “Our Reports”, and “UC Olive Database". Which is a website fail, sure, but since the leaves are on the page navigation, not one that stops you from getting to the data (and since “Research” isn't a link on the nav bar, just a label, the only way to get to the broken page seems to be following breadcrumbs from one of the leaves.)

It only leads to example.com with JS disabled. It's actually an on-click dropdown menu with three options:

- Projects: https://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/research/projects

- Our Reports: https://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/research/reports

- UC Olive Database: https://olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/research/publications

You guessed correctly that I had JS disabled. Thank you!

After I read about what passes for extra-virgin olive oil in the US I decided to try and get my hands on some domestic certified extra-virgin: I was blown away. I won't buy anything else now (not because of an article but because of the flavor.) It wouldn't surprise me if a lot of the cheap stuff found in grocery stores is just canola oil and green food coloring.

I do the same as you're essentially guaranteed the pressed on date and a much fresher product than what's available at any shop sort of a dedicated oil store. A lot of what actually has a pressed on date labeled at the store currently is November 2017 harvest and with some 2016 harvests thrown in too! You can now order 2018 pressed oil if you go direct for the freshest product available.

I thought the same thing. When I buy "olive oil", I just think of it more as a style than a product actually made from olives. I don't think an olive tree crisis will have an impact on whatever I'm buying.

The French use regionalism with wine to control this without sounding... well let’s just say it: racist.

I’m surprised there aren’t appellations for Italian olive oil, if they care so much about it being domestic.

italy consumes 3 times as much oil as it produces.

But all bottles have a label that says where the oil or olives come from, it's just that nobody takes time to read it.

And of course, people want 1L of EVOO for 8 euros, not 20, so the big distribution carries mostly those.

Another problem is that the labeling laws apply only to oil bottles sold in Italy/EU. Most olive oil sold in North America by Italian companies will just say "Product of Italy" without mentioning that the olives used come from Tunisia or other countries. The US and Canadian labeling laws are a joke compared to most European countries, and should definitely improve on this.

Wow, I had no idea about the mismatch between supply and demand.

On a French wine label, the appellation is often the second biggest text on the label. IIRC on olive oil 'extra virgin' is the second biggest.

Maybe the appellation should assume EVOO and work from there?

I think we could apply the terms "nationalist", "patriotic", or even "chauvinistic" terms in this context without too much penalty.

See also: Japanese vs Californian rice.

> The label "extra vergine" increases the price of oil so much that there is a huge economic incentive for fraud.

It's also a huge economic incentive for the Mafia to get involved, according to the Financial Times: https://outline.com/bH8KVt. It is a huge problem, and it doesn't stop at olive oil.

Aren't "fraud" (on the scale we are talking about) and "the Mafia gets involved" kind of the same thing over there?

EDIT: I remember reading the article you linked, it's really good! Goes into much more than just olive oil fraud.

I personally always found Tunisian or Turkish olive oil the best, or Greek as a replacement.

And the problem is not new: the Romans were already fighting olive-oil fraud!

From Olive Oil's Dark Side [0]: "The Romans instituted elaborate mechanisms to prevent fraud. [...] These careful records were intended to prevent the siphoning off of oil en route, or the substitution of an inferior product."

The whole article is very interesting!

[0] https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/olive-oils-dark-...

We buy Spanish by preference when we cook. We buy Australian extra virgin for drissle

> People outside of Italy are probably not aware of how seriously they take the topic of olive oil over there. The label "extra vergine" increases the price so much that there is a huge economic incentive for fraud.


Around half the oil labeled as extra virgin olive oil is fake. If memory serves part of the problem is that the labeling laws in Europe are much less strict than they are in the United States. This is why you might see a tool marked "Made in Germany" that's actually made in Turkey and merely packaged in Germany. In the United States you'd see something along the lines of "Made in the US with foreign and domestic components" or "Assembled in the US".

Personally I've stuck with one or two brands of olive oil from California because it's a.) supporting my local economy and b.) a known quantity.

Hello people! A voice from the field here.

As in most of the cases in Italy, we can say that the approach is: "the situation is hopeless, but not serious". Apart from the joke, it is a sad period and the Xylella case is just part of a bigger whole. But let's stay focused.

Actually, the problem has a long history and Nature wrote about it several times over the last 5 years.

I'm not an expert, nor a practitioner of the field. Nevertheless, it seems a growing evidence show that the bacterium is responsible for the problem together with a state of abandon, spread over many areas of the region, uncultivated from several decades.

The local court started an investigation to understand how Xylella reached the Salento area. Due to a poor scientific approach and an uneffective communication, such investigations gave rise to very large protests among public opinion. These protests blocked de facto any political decision to stop the spreading of the bacterium: politicians are more interested in their consensus.

This lead to a paralysis status in which Xylella prospered and the infection spread over, towards southern areas of Brindisi province.

Meanwhile, the investigations did not find a clear responsible. There are two main voices in this side. The first says that Xylella infection was the result of an out of hand scientific experiment aimed at testing some plant protection products. The second says that Xylella comes from massive and uncontrolled import-export activities in a big plants trading facility. Both stories have a similar geographical origin, near the city of Gallipoli.

HTH, Nico

Italy has a messy history listening to and even jailing its scientists, as they go about the normal process of empiricism. https://www.nature.com/news/italian-seismologists-cleared-of...

"Bertolaso said he was sending the scientists to L’Aquila to carry out “a media operation” in order to “shut up any imbecile,” most likely a reference to Gioacchino Giuliani, a technician at the nearby Gran Sasso physics laboratory who had reportedly raised a series of alarms about impending strong quakes in the weeks beforehand."

Scientists, acting in a public service context, charged with negligence after a natural disaster they dismissed as unlikely resulted in 300+ deaths. That isn't the same as putting scientists on trail for reporting factual but inconvenient data. All their sentences were overturned as well.


> they dismissed as unlikely

They didn't dismiss it! They only stated that imbecile Gioacchino Giuliani was talking out of nothing and people had better to ignore him.

Earthquakes cannot yet be foreseen with an adequate precision. Fullstop.

After the fact, judges were clearly overwhelmed with emotions when they forced themselves to read a mere pseudo-coincidence as an unknown genius researcher being silenced by the corrupt scientific elite. The judgement was overthrown in appeal, and the appeal outcome validated by supreme court, with the staement: il fatto non sussiste (there is no case).

There was actually an investigation of Italian scientists with respect to their alleged involvement with the spread of this particular plant disease.


This particular story is embarrassing (although as your article points out, they were eventually cleared) but I don't think it's directly related to the problem at hand.

Failing to heed the warnings of scientists is unfortunately not something we can stereotype on Italians alone...

No, but this is unprecedented for a developed country.

Yes, they were eventually cleared. Great. Some doubts remain but it cannot be proved beyond all reasonable doubt that they were witches. Not guilty!

I'm pretty sure the US is considered a developed country and it routinely ignores scientists' warnings about the climate and the environment in general.

Ignoring warnings != jailing scientists for failing to warn

I'm embarrassed by the anti-science positions taken in the US but those are hardly the same magnitude

Charles Monnett was grilled by agents about his research.


Here's some original material:


It’s actually not part of my routine at all, thanks.

I'm not sure how you didn't pick up on the fact that this was not about scientists being ignored.

The problem was not only related to the (ridicolous) attempt to indict, but rather with the fact that nowadays in my country (at least for the media), being prosecuted means you are guilty.

Another, equally embarassing story (a little off-topic in the context of olive oil ;) is the prosecution of Ilaria Capua (another scientist who had a bad encounter with the justice system).

This is not really a good example, because the government official who headed that commission was indeed using the "scientific" process to reach a pre-decided conclusion.

The story you linked lays it all out, but it can't really be reduced to "jailing its scientists".

We (for small values of we) started early: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galileo_affair


Laws of gravity don't work in Italy either, Pope John XXI in 13th century had them declared null and void /heresy.

Smells like another internet-spread revisionist history rumor.

His Wikipedia article makes him sound like a scientist, himself:

"Wherever he studied, he concentrated on medicine, theology, logic, physics, metaphysics, and Aristotle's dialectic. He is traditionally and usually identified with the medical author Peter of Spain, an important figure in the development of logic and pharmacology."

"To secure the necessary quiet for his medical studies, he had an apartment added to the papal palace at Viterbo, to which he could retire when he wished to work undisturbed."

The Catholic Church, even in its early days, was/is loaded with scientists and scholars. The concept of the Church being anti-science is a more recent internet-fueled meme.

> Laws of gravity don't work in Italy either, Pope John XXI in 13th century had them declared null and void /heresy.

This is a distortion of a distortion (the original distortion popularized by Stephen Hawking was that John XXI declared laws of nature in general, not the law of gravity as such, to be heresy.)

The actual fact is that John XXI declared the teaching of a contemporary faction that the laws of nature constrained the power of God was heresy.

Italy's relationship with science is mired in corruption, enough so that Italian scientists often move away to find jobs.

> Italy's relationship with science is mired in corruption

Not any more than any other countries. I've dealt with many people from all over Europe thanks to a particular project I was involved in, and bad behaviors were truly cross-country (misappropriation of results, pressure to change authorship, "games" to move funding to allies or away from enemies...).

EDIT: What I mean is not that everyone is bad, but that rather bad behaviors even in my country are in the median with the others.

As a disclaimer, I am a scientist that is still working in Italy.

That particular example is not a good one, since the scientists should be all rights have been convicted and punished for what they did. The overturning of the sentence was a miscarriage of justice driven by public opinion and media clickbait frenzy, not the facts.

The truth of the matter is that the scientists were aware that they were in a situation of power over people, and in order to get people to stop annoying them with questions they lied and deceived people, which caused them to die.

It's ok to be wrong. It's ok to not know everything.

It is not ok to kill people by telling them that they are safe to go back to their homes when you know you have no idea, nor data to support that statement.

This looks like an opinion piece disguised as objective reporting. There's just enough factual information to make it seem credible but the author is clearly taking sides. For example, the article characterizes people with environmental concerns as "anti-science" yet there's no evidence presented to support this point of view.

Scientists were accused of having spread the bacterium delierately, or allowed to become endemic through neglect, that they have been subject to the corrupting influence of business (in particulary solar companies who might stand to profit from the clearing of olive groves), that they have a remedy but will not release it, that they are wrong about the cause of the disease which is instead a fungus that can be dealt with without having to cut down the infected trees, etc [1].

None of the above is a direct attack on "science" in general, as a process, or a concept, nor an attack on scientists in general. However, all these sound a great deal like the claims of various anti-science conspiracy theorists, like anti-vaxxers or HIV-denialists: scientists are in bed with big pharma, they spread HIV through infected needles, vaccines are what cause disease, etc.

"I'm not saying that this proves anything- I'm just stating the facts".


[1] https://www.nature.com/news/italian-scientists-vilified-in-w...

It does sound a little subjective but then the following seems like it really happened, which definitely looks like being anti-science:

> In June, some parliamentarians formally deposited documents at the Senate, one of Italy’s two houses of parliament, which challenged the scientific evidence on which Xylella management plans have been based and called for a Senate inquiry into whether scientists have misled the public. These claims were repudiated the following month, in an independent analysis commissioned by the national science academy, the Accademia dei Lincei. The Senate has not yet acted on the call for an inquiry.

that action isn't intrinsically anti-science. It depends on the objection that the counterparty has raised - if their objections are legitimate or just based in conspiracy. If the results cannot be defended without resorting to an appeal to authority then that is more anti-science than challenging the work itself.

> If the results cannot be defended without resorting to an appeal to authority then that is more anti-science than challenging the work itself.

I think trusting "an independent analysis commissioned by the national science academy" compared to a political action initiated by a few politicians is not "an appeal to authority", quite the contrary. At some point we do have to trust some people who are better prepared and informed than us on a particularly given subject. Especially in the Italian political and social context, where some other scientists have been recently prosecuted for "failing" to predict earthquakes.

to be clear, I was addressing the original complaint, not the response to the independent analysis. If your allegations are addressed by an independent third party and you continue to reject the outcome, then it's pretty clearly conspiracy-based.

"These claims were repudiated the following month, in an independent analysis". It was anti-science populism (and it was actually worse than this retelling makes it look).

the claims being repudiated doesn't make it anti-science either. However, I'm not denying that it could be anti-science, and it sounds like you know more about this than is written in TFA.

Well not wanting to use /any/ insecticidal measures I think qualifies. One can rightfully argue about the specific chemicals while agreeing using something to contain outbreaks is needed.

I was pretty shocked to learn that most (~80%) of the Italian extra virgin olive oil that comes into the US is neither Italian or olive oil.


It is olive oil- it's just not extra virgin olive oil, produced by olive flesh (i.e. not the seeds) and only by mechanical extraction (i.e. no heat or chemical processing). The fraud is in the fact that it is advertised as extra virgin, the highest recognised quality, when it's not.

Also, it is Italian, only not purely so. It is often mixed in with oils from other places. The problem is when the mix-ins are from North Africa, e.g. from Morocco, which are considered of inferior quality than the South European oils. Nobody would really mind if Italian oils were mixed in with Spanish or Greek oils, which are considered superior.

> The problem is when the mix-ins are from North Africa, e.g. from Morocco, which are considered of inferior quality

Tunisian here. I'm curious: why is North African olive oil considered inferior?

Racism, mainly. They say the same thing about Turkish hazelnuts while failing to acknowledge that Turkey is the homeland of hazelnuts and way way older than Italian ones.

Turkey is the homeland of hazelnuts and way way older than Italian ones.

Older !== better. See also: California wine.

I don't know. Probably traditional reasons. For example, French wine is considered superior, but I find Greek and Italian wines at least as good (although I haven't really tried all that many of any type).

I don't have a good source for this, but the way I always knew it is that, when it comes to olive oil, Spanish is considered best, followed by Greek, followed by Italian, then everyone else's comes next.

I am Greek, so of course I believe this is wildly inaccurate. Also, the bit about wines. Ours are obviously better.

Bottom line: probably not for any good reason.

As I assumed, it's purely subjective.

I would argue that almost no one can tell the difference between the highest quality olive oils from the major oil producing Mediterranean countries. So way I look at it is that Mediterranean olive oil > others.

On that we can agree. Then gagain, we're both Mediterranean :)

Hello, Southern Italian here. I've never heard any bashing against North African olives or oil. Common sense says that olive is a Mediterranean tree and no particular Mediterranean region is better than all the others. On the other side, the issue raised against non-EU olives is that they are not subject to EU quality regulations, and those regulations are considered quite strict.

Oil quality depends mostly on how it is produced; setting aside the possibility of contaminated product, olives from different places can only have a different taste.

I'm not an expert here, but I've heard that olives are a lot like grapes. The quality and flavor varies greatly by soil, weather, and climate conditions.

> It is olive oil

Some of it is, some of it isn't; as the article notes, while some of the fraud is lower-grade olive oil, some of it is non-olive seed oils with additives to help it pass for olive oil.

> The problem is when the mix-ins are from North Africa, e.g. from Morocco, which are considered of inferior quality

No, the problem is that the mixins are lower-grade oil (not extra-virgin). While, yes, this oil often comes from North Africa, the origin isn't really the problem, the grade is.

You're right that non-olive oils are also mixed in, sometimes.

I'm pretty sure the provenance is a problem. I don't remember where that certitude comes from. I can try looking it up if you insist - but actually I'd rather I didn't, I'm a little on the busy side right now :0

Which is why you should purchase Extra Virgin Olive oil from Greece, directly from Greece. There is a greek food importer in almost every that has a few Greek restaurant owners where you could go and get the real stuff.

Also the irony here is that for the "premium" Italian olive oils, especially the extra virgin, most of the olives come from Greece.

> Which is why you should purchase Extra Virgin Olive oil from Greece, directly from Greece.

I think you misspelled “California”.

> Also the irony here is that for the "premium" Italian olive oils, especially the extra virgin, most of the olives come from Greece.

I thought Spain supplied more of the olives for Italian olive oil, and that was true across grades.

Everywhere in the mediterranean supplies oil for olive oil. And calling it "Italian" is virtually meaningless. Either it comes from a very specific region of Italy so you can taste its local flavor, or it's just an oil blend. The back of the bottle will tell you which countries the oil comes from.

I highly suggest buying from Greece instead of California, if only as a form of financial assistance via trade. Greek products are extremely good, but difficult to get here. There's so little money in Greece that they can't afford to build up the export infrastructure they had a century ago.

I am someone who still has all but my immediate family still over there, and I really appreciate you saying this. It really goes a long way. Greece has been at the very short end of the stick on some EU trade deals, austerity measures, increased war games from their millennial long mortal enemies, front lines of a refugee crisis, and more. For a country that has been through so much it truly is a testament to their resolve. And they still take great pride in making the best damn olives they can.

There is a greek food importer in almost every that has a few Greek restaurant owners where you could go and get the real stuff.

This might explain why I occasionally see Greek restaurants that also sell olive oil, but no other groceries.

That article certainly doesn't say that 80% isn't olive oil. Instead it argues that up to 80% doesn't meet the very stringent requirement to be classified as extra-virgin olive oil, often because it's partially mixing with lesser grades (or even simply differently sourced) of olive oil. That's a far cry from wholly substituting.

In other cases, a bottle labeled "extra-virgin olive oil" may not be olive oil at all, just a seed oil like sunflower made to look and smell like olive oil with a few drops of chlorophyll and beta-carotene.

This does not sound like a far cry that sounds like fraud.

You are still selling an inferior product, claiming that is something it is not.

In Italy or Spain, you can find "non extra-virgin" olive oil sold as well, although at a lower price.

I'm not disputing that. I'm disputing the completely unsubstantiated and simply ridiculous claim that 80% of olive oil isn't actually olive oil. That's a misreading akin to claiming that "80% of Halloween candy is pure sugar, and might even have a razor blade in it" means that 80% of Halloween candy has a razor blade in it.

Its a sad state of today's food products. Honey in particular is often fraudulent containing syrups and sugars to add to volume while still being marketed as "Pure Honey". Worst of all, it is getting harder to detect the authenticity in modern labs as "honey factories" continue to develop new ways to throw the test results.

If it's been packaged for longer than a month and is still liquid -- it's fake. Real honey crystallizes quite quickly.

Because to keep it from crystallizing, you have to filter it so hard that it is indistinguishable from fake honey laced with real honey.

> In Italy or Spain, you can find "non extra-virgin" olive oil sold as well

Also in the US, you can find both virgin olive oil and (no modifier) olive oil as well as extra-virgin (and while EVOO is a higher grade, its only better for a narrow range of applications.)

<disclaimer: did not read that>

Reading olive-oil labels is one of my hobbies. You'd find "Imported from Italy", "Packaged in Italy", "Made in Italy", and other shenanigans to imply some relation to Italy, without the burden of actually growing and pressing olives in Italy. That's the food equivalent of "Assembled in NA" labels, which vaguely implies someone tightened 4 screws in something bought elsewhere. The art of labelling!

It's spanish olive oil (and is the BEST olive oil)

I recently read Biodiversos by Stefano Mancuso and Carlo Petrini, the founder of the slow food movement. It's basically a discussion between the two where they lay out the big problems with our production and consumption of food.

For instance, concentrating on making single kinds as productive as possible instead of cultivating variety is extremely dangerous, as shown by this event. The great Irish famine is maybe the most striking example. Humanity does exactly that with wheat, cows, almost everything. The very basis of most of the globe's food comes from a handful of species. In my mind, this is one of the great ticking bombs of our close future.

I don’t know about dangerous.

We have a wide range of crops and the loss of a single one is only ever a regional problem. The loss of any one crop be that something minor like strawberries or major like corn is just not that big a deal globally.

Now locally yea it can be a huge issue, but the tradeoff of lower productivity every year vs the low odds in any one year of a problem make this fairly complex balancing act.

The problem is that the same crops are grown globally, so once a disease grabs hold, it can spread very quickly, eradicating yields globally.

Google Banana fungus. We don't have a wide range of crops. We have monoculture and a very small set of GMO crops that is used all over the world. For example there is a lot of different rice species but we eat mabe five of them in western countries.

Let’s assume the worldwide Banana outpdrops to zero in one day. That’s bad, but not what I would call dangerous.

In terms of the food supply, their are several major food crops that are important wheat, corn, rice, soy etc so the loss of a major one would be very bad, but the worldwide food surplus is so mind blowingly vast it would not nessisarily result in starvation for anyone beyond possibly the farmers directly affected in the 3rd world.

And frankly next year you can generally plant something else.

Aggressive destruction of plants that are believed to be infected without actual signs of infection is a bad idea. You may destroy plants that have a natural immunity. Keeping those plants may be the only hope for a long-term solution.

Hey! The region where I live is on HN homepage.

I wonder if this plague is somehow related to the fact that Puglia ecosystem has been subverted in the last 50 years by heavy pesticide usage and intensive agriculture.

Olive groves from Puglia are about a couple centuries old, and were originally meant to produce low grade oil for lamps.

Furthermore, at that time picking was a painstaking manual process but labor was cheap. So these trees were let to grow naturally, making it impossible to use mechanized picking today.

Overall it would be better to setup a replantation program to allow for modern and cost-effective management. I have little hope it will ever happen.

Olive Wood is really beautiful and expensive, I wonder if this will drive a decrease in the price of it.

In the US there is a special variety of pine killed by Mountain Pine Beetles that is relatively cheap but liked by woodworkers because the fungus that kills it leaves interesting blue streaks : https://www.sustainablelumberco.com/2015/03/beetle-kill-pine...

Reminds me of the burl: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burl

It's basically a kind of cancer inside the tree, but it's highly prized because it looks pretty.

Spalted maple is a fungal decay, halted before the wood becomes too unstable to work.

> Italy declared a state of emergency over the crisis in 2015. But quarantine efforts — which can involve uprooting beloved, ancient trees — have been opposed by environmentalists and some farmers,

That's always the problem with stupid environmentalists (as opposed to smart environmentalists): they can only say no, but they never propose an alternative solutions to the actual issue.

Also, Europe is desertifying like crazy due to climate change. Spanish farmers can't get the irrigation water they need, and have to go out of business or move in order to open greehouse farms in other actual desert areas. It's horrible because the planet is becoming so inhospitable that a nearly global desert is what we have to look forward to, if not Venus.

In Brazil, there is some interesting story about how Cacau trees were contaminated with a plague called "vassoura de bruxa" (Crinipellis perniciosa). Many trees were found with some contaminated branches tied to them.

In portuguese there are some news (ex.: http://atarde.uol.com.br/bahia/salvador/noticias/1257586-ent...) considering that it was some kind of bioterrorism.

From my understanding there are two ways this happens. 1) We mess with plant genetics, which creates weak mono cultures. Bananas being the biggest offender I'm familiar with. And 2) We play God and release our lovely designer creatures into the environment to marvel at the unintended consequences.

This one hits me where it hurts though, I wouldn't get through a day without good olive oil.

I also see a third option, let nature run its course.

Yes, that means we will reduce the supply of Olive oil. But, if they follow through with the quarantine practices, it will destroy hundreds of years of root growth, diversity, and soil health.

Why do humans think they can stop the force of nature? We only make it worse for ourselves when we attempt to "control" nature.


I remember reading this some years back, about horizontal resistance rather than vertical resistance.


I was unable to find a whole lot more information on the subject at the time.

It's sad for producers of genuine olive oil but as a rather indifferent consumer I always remember that olive oil, honey and I forget what else are the most falsified food products in the world. I would guess that the market of "extra virgin olive oil" will remain, cough, healthy.

> If found guilty, Italy could, for example, lose access to important agricultural subsidies.

That will help ...

It seems that Italy has a problem checking imported alive plants. Is not exclusive from Italy, Spain also has issues, and France, but it seem that it happens a lot there for some reason.

Is the Olive, and the Chestnut also, and other crops...

It's quite unfortunate, but the eventual solution is resistance. Plants have immune responses too? If they are all extremely similar genetically, that is the actual problem.

Is it time to hoard good olive oil?

Olive oil is a fresh product that needs to be consumed within a relatively short time span (preferably within a year or so) — after that it starts getting rancid. So this is not really an option.

What if you keep it frozen?

The year assumes frozen. Keep it at room temperature and you get just a couple months.

Of course few people (outside of the Mediterranean) have had good fresh olive oil and wouldn't know the difference.

Q: are olive trees a monoculture like bananas?

That word does not mean what you think it does ;)

No, they're not. They can be grown in a monoculture (a large area occupied by the same plant), but they're not clones like bananas.

They are, however, slow. What you plant today doesn't give you olives any time soon.

> They are, however, slow. What you plant today doesn't give you olives any time soon.

That's why news like this terrify me so much. Even deadly human diseases seem depressingly harmless by comparison, given the relative ease with which we can be replaced, relative to a very old tree. Thinking of humans as replaceable feels awful.

hah sometimes environmentalists really are too crazy.

im italian, and the problem it's not disease but bad weather

I wonder if such bacteria can be designed in a lab.

And then used to attack developing countries massive agricultural production.

Let's say, china and india are growing export regions.

And if American or Russian companies design a specific bacteria to target their major agricultural exports then the prices will go up due to falling supply.

So is this possible? Could this be happening somewhere in the world?

It's probably easier to screen for existing bacterial strains that do such a job, instead of designing them.

Yes. About a billion times easier. Just send a few tourists in who are contaminated.

It'd probably be a bad idea since the disease would probably spread to the other growing areas eventually.

Although it's possible, occams razor does not suggest it is the most likely reason

The easiest way to ensure that people listen is to do nothing and let all the olive trees in Italy die. I presume at that point people will pay attention.

They will not, they will just find a convenient scapegoat.

Immigrants! Leaders of other EU countries telling their banks to dump our bonds and cause the ‘spread’ to levitate. Et cetera.

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