Olive trees in France have for the first time been detected with the deadly Xylella fastidiosa bacteria, which has already destroyed more than a million trees in Italy.
France's agriculture ministry said that two decorative olive trees in southern France - one in Antibes and the other in Menton - had been found to be infected, local media RFI reported.
It described the development as a "health threat for agricultural production".
It’s the first time the bacteria has been identified on an olive tree in France, although the disease was found on other plants in southern France and on the island of Corsica in 2015.
The bacteria, which is carried from tree to tree by a little bug, cannot be killed directly and the only way to fight the spread of the disease, known as "olive tree leprosy", is to destroy diseased trees.
The ministry said the two trees would be destroyed in the coming days, and all other plants particularly vulnerable to the bacterium within a five-kilometer radius would be pulled up to try to prevent contamination.
Botanist Anne Breuil described the bacteria as “one of the most dangerous, since there is no way of fighting against it. We can only fight the insects [leafhoppers] that transmit it,” she told 20 Minutes.
Xylella fastidiosa began attacking olive trees in 2013. Countries co-operate in trying to help stop the spread of the disease, but it's complicated. In 2018 the European Commission referred Italy to the Court of Justice for failing to adequately prevent the further spread of the disease in the Apulia region.