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27 May 2015

Italian tomatoes endangered by a Japanese grub

The ethical and sustainable way to protect plants and vegetables from the threat of new insects


What is happening to the earth? We are not talking about the planet, Gaia, but instead about the land where our plants and vegetables grow. In addition to the attacks of the bacterium “Xylella fastidiosa” on olive trees and citrus fruits, the latest threat is the presence of the larvae of “Popillia japonica” (“Japanese beetle”), an insect that could potentially eat the roots of 295 plant species, of which at least one hundred are of great economic importance, such as corn, grapes, tomatoes, apple trees and flowers…
Unfortunately the current weather conditions and the mild winter that has just passed seem to be ideal conditions for the proliferation of these pests.

The first question facing manufacturers is always “Where are they from?”, but maybe this is not the right question to ask in order to to fix the problem. In a world where logistics, goods handling and human migration are unrelenting, it is not feasible to try to block the arrival of parasites at source. The obstacles would not only be insurmountable, but the costs would be prohibitive.
Perhaps the first question to answer is: “How to stop their proliferation?” With new technology, insecticides and pesticides? The solution is probably to be found in ethical and sustainable behaviours that reinforce the biosystem, providing natural weapons that minimise environmental damage and which are able to create the physical and chemical conditions to help plants defend themselves.
If we decide to take action using this scenario, then the second question is to actually find out where the parasite is from because it is in its country of origin where a natural enemy will be found. Reinforcing the natural defence of plants and using man-made support mechanisms should go hand in hand.
Inevitably, this course of action requires research, funding, support for farmers and will take a long time to succeed, but experience teaches us that the first objective of companies in the food industry must be to minimize the risks related to food security, as the legislature has often remarked. In this context, the way forward should be ethical, sustainable, comprehensible and geared towards a world where the emphasis is increasingly focused on the protection of our consumers.


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