Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE, SC Aff – Precautionary Principle INHERENCY 1.

US does not have a general rule for precaution

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Marko Ahteensuu(PhD, Philosophy; Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium, University of
Turku; Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society, 2004-05; ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms”

December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. 11, Iss. 14 (Academic OneFile)

Interestingly, in

policymaking, the United States (US) has not explicitly accepted the PP as the official basis for its risk regulation, and the US has reproached the European Union (EU) for imposing illicit trade barriers in the name of precaution. A common but oversimplified transatlantic antithesis states that, whilst the EU endorses the PP, the US opposes it (see Wiener and Rogers 2002). 2. Although several environmental policies have precautionary measures, an over-arching precautionary framework is lacking from our regulatory system Peter Montague(Director, Environmental Research Foundation; Editor, Rachel's Environment and Health News) “Burden of Proof: The Precautionary Principle” March-April 2009 Published in the MULTINATIONAL MONITOR Vol. 30 Iss. 2
(Academic OneFile)

As I mentioned, U.S. food and drug law takes a precautionary approach, assuming that new drugs are harmful or useless or both, and putting the burden on drug companies to prove otherwise. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires all government agencies to avoid actions that might harm a species that has been designated as "threatened" or "endangered," even if this proves to be very costly. The ESA does not require cost-benefit analysis of proposed actions to show that protecting endangered species is "worth it." The law assumes that protecting an endangered species is worth the cost. Some parts of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act require that standards be set to protect human and environmental health without any cost-benefit balancing. So there are instances of a precautionary approach built into several U.S. environmental statutes. But these are exceptions to the general rule that still guides most of our laws and regulations, namely that benefits are assumed to outweigh costs, and costs are assumed to be able to grow without limit. In general,
the law assumes that the Earth can absorb unlimited harm and that no one has a right to curtail harm unless they can show that the harm is "unreasonable"-meaning that its social costs exceed its social benefits. Absent such a showing, the harmful activity gets to continue.

A2: VAGUENESS 1. Vagueness preserves the ability to adapt to specific measures Marko Ahteensuu(PhD, Philosophy; Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium, University of
Turku; Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society, 2004-05; ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms”

December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. 11, Iss. 14 (Academic OneFile)

in order to find out whether the argument from vagueness is valid, the following two questions need to be considered. First, is the PP (currently) ill-defined, ambiguous and/or vacuous? Second, if so, does it follow that the principle should be abandoned? I explore these issues in order.
If the above claims are well-grounded, then a strong reason to reject the PP exists. Accordingly,

A number of facts support an affirmative answer to the first question. The claim that the PP is ill-defined (in different
senses) can be argued for as follows. Originally, the first references to the principle in official environmental policy documents were short and without a definition. In addition to the phrase 'precautionary principle', terms such as 'precautionary measure', 'precautionary approach', 'precautionary action',

it has been argued that the (problem of) vagueness should be taken seriously. According to Jordan and O'Riordan (18). but rather that there are several formulations of it. the statement "fails to indicate who must bear the cost of precaution. Most of the particular formulations (or definitions) of the principle do not provide specific guidance as to what exactly must be shown to justify precautionary measures. Neil A. a positive answer to the first question is also supported by. They even think that the vagueness is. It should. One option is to argue that principles (such as the PP) in general are vague. Even if we sidestep the terminological issues. whilst most of the authors speak about one definite principle (e. Still. Conco 2003:642-643. Sandin 1999. 2004-05.g. not only one right (or commonly accepted) definition of the PP exists.] states a reason that argues in one direction. It would. our principle may not prevail. Ahteensuu 2007). Nollkaemper 1996:80-81). Kenneth Foster and his colleagues (2000) consider the extreme variability of interpretations of the PP as its greatest problem as a policy tool. to what extent--this matters. namely that of whether--and if so. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. these may be called as definitional variations and definitional generalities. the precise meaning of precaution will only emerge when stakeholders come together to make a decision in a particular context. but does not necessitate a particular decision. On the other hand. Thus. In their view.. Sandin (1999) presents 19 different formulations of the principle. while capturing the emotions of misgiving and guilt" (15). and what should be done when environmental concerns and concern for human health pull in different directions" (449). This is true of judicial texts and other official documents and also holds in regard to the commentary literature of the principle. All that is meant. Turner and Hartzell use the Wingspread Statement to illuminate definitional generalities. The former refers to the fact that. attempts to clarify and specify the principle have been made in the academic literature (e. it seems strange that the Commission of European Communities did not define the principle in their Communication (CEC). Gardiner. would have to throw out several other principles as well Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. but also holds in regard to several other decision rules. This implies two options for the critics of the PP.g. Following Ronald Dworkin's description of legal principles. be noted that even if the official formulations of the PP include definitional generalities. the same objection could be raised in these other cases as well. and 'precaution' have been employed. In his article on the dimensions of the PP. in fact. others use the indefinite plural form (e. indeed. Vagueness is non-unique. refer to the fact that different formulations of the PP are "loaded with generalities" (VanderZwaag: 167). Philosophy. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle Page 2 of 11 'principle of precaution'. these analyses have illuminated various aspects of the PP--yet much of the work seems to be undone. Rogers 2001). 14 (Academic OneFile) Should the vagueness of the PP result in its abandonment? As correctly pointed out by Sandin and his colleagues (2002:289). Furthermore. On the one hand. (Writing general policy objectives in legislation is. however. because in the next case.g. VanderZwaag (167). Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. 2004). [. in fact. for instance. Admittedly. Iss.. and thus cannot provide useful guidance for decision-making. 11. "Paradoxically.) Consequently. be hard to assure the opposite.g... In their analysis. desirable and a precondition for the functionality of the principle. which was aimed to clarify the principle and its use. for instance. if it is . In addition to the surface structure and wording differences. According to them. the formulations differ significantly in regard to their content (see e. and thus their application to concrete situations presupposes interpretation (see e. On the basis of above. the principle may be decisive. Definitional generalities. contends that "[a]cademic efforts to clarify the meaning of the precautionary approach have also left considerable fuzziness". they leave much space for discretion. Beauchamp and Childress 1983:5. Fellow. a common practice. the lack of precision in the definition is not unique to the PP. when these contravening considerations are absent or less weighty. This brings us to the second question. Technology and Society. trading costs against benefits and determining the (un)acceptable levels of damage (18). Following David VanderZwaag's (167-168) use of terms. both in terms of wording and in terms of surface syntactic structure" (2002:263.] There may be other principles or policies arguing in the other direction [. University of Turku. what constitutes a threat of harm. 2002). but that does not mean that it is not a principle of our legal system. Given the multiple and differing formulations of the PP. This might be based upon the fact that (decision-making) principles do not imply context specific guidance.. is that the principle is one which officials must take into account. whether there is a difference in meaning between 'precautionary principle' and 'precautionary approach' is not commonly agreed upon (see e. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. Manson states that "[v]ersions of the precautionary principle are many. see also Adams 2002:302).g. Lofstedt et al.] If so. when we say that a particular principle is a principle of our law..g. VanderZwaag 2002:166-167). not from those of moral philosophy and practical decision-making.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE. at least. we conclude that the application of precaution will remain politically potent so long as it continues to be tantalizingly ill-defined and imperfectly translatable into codes of conduct. 2. how much precaution is too much. some proponents of the principle do not seem to be concerned about the vagueness at all. [a] principle [. Turner and Hartzell (459) argue that the ambiguity of the PP can only be seen as a good thing from a rhetorical perspective. in their turn. it is not problematic that the PP only offers broad guidelines (or a frame) to policymakers. I conclude that the PP is currently vague in a number of senses (and also a matter of ongoing disputes). two further facts. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. Trouwborst 2002:3-5.

Abstract definition of the Precautionary Principle is not a reason to reject Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. academic efforts have been dedicated to define the principle more precisely (e. Iss. as a consideration inclining in one direction or another (1978:26). option would be to try to show that even if principles in general are vague and in need of interpretation when applied to concrete cases. It follows that if the PP should be abandoned because its nature as a principle.g. Ahteensuu forthcoming. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. and more plausible. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. Why the PP could not be defined more precisely in principle is hard to imagine. Again. Yet what that difference could be in practice is hard to imagine.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE. 2004-05. a number of court decisions already exist. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. two sub-options for an argument emerge. Thus. The principle offers a rationale to act in the case of uncertain risks before the scientific proof of the causal relationship between an action and the assumed damage is achieved. December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. then--in the name of consistency--other principles should go with the same strain. It is not the case that the PP offers us no guidance for action. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. Technology and Society. the argument from ambiguity has consequences which are not satisfactory. other legal principles and terms also require interpretation and deliberation when applied to particular cases. Court cases. Lastly. University of Turku. 2004-05. specifically that 3. and that this makes the principle flawed. and historical precedent can be used to guide the use of the Precautionary Principle Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. Philosophy. In addition. Iss. the burden of proof seems to remain with the proponents of this view. Nonetheless. Philosophy. they might in fact be. 2007. the following facts should be taken seriously. Sandin 1999). First. that there is an essential difference between the PP and (most of the) other decision-making principles might be argued for. University of Turku. Provided that we are not willing to abandon most of our (conduct-guiding) principles--as a kind of a reductio ad absurdum--this way of argumentation is not plausible. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle relevant. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. even if other decision rules are not in principle more well-defined than the precautionary principle. has several definitions (and interpretations). Lastly. 14 (Academic OneFile) The other. Several governmental documents (such as the CEC) have been established in order to clarify the principle and its use. I do not deny this because the history of the PP in official texts and court decisions is still a brief one. Moreover. 11. 11. and they can be used as . the existence of several definitions is not unique to the PP. Technology and Society. The principle of sustainable development. 14 (Academic OneFile) following the argument presented by Sandin and his colleagues. Given the vague nature of principles in this sense. Fellow. Dworkin makes here two important observations. Page 3 of 11 principles (of law) have to be considered in the realm of other principles and that they (usually) leave room for discretion. the PP is ill-defined in a special way. governmental guidance documents and court cases that can be of help in interpreting these principles (2002:289). for instance. There are. 4. Fellow. in the sense that due to their long period of use there has emerged a substantial body of interpretations and practices that partly compensate for the lack of exact definitions. when considering the weight of this argument. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” Second. for instance.

Technology and Society. A2: INCOHERENCY/INCONSISTENCY/CONTRADICTORY NATURE 1. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. Second. 2004-05. other principles with respect to its vagueness. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. see also 1999) similarly claim that the PP is incoherent and consequently does not provide the kind of justification (for a precautionary 'pause' from proceeding with new technologies) that it is often presumed to offer. Iss. but so are various other decision-making principles which we use. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. Technology and Society. the definition of the PP may be incoherent. Sunstein's recent book on the PP. has argued that "[t]he precautionary principle commits us to each of the following propositions: (1) We must not develop GM crops. Soren Holm (2002. 11. and more problematic than. for example. 2004-05. and Sunstein are right. Fellow. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. it should be abandoned. Philosophy. the PP has also been objected to on the basis of other alleged problems. Technology and Society. but it fails to do so. distinguishing its different forms is necessary. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle precedents in the future. 11. Philosophy. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol.. About the Incoherence argument Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. Gary Comstock (2000). University of Turku. (2) We must develop GM crops. . the PP is incoherent. or a moral principle. and every step in between (2005:14-15). Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. the PP should be abandoned. First. In order to demonstrate that the PP should be abandoned on this basis. the PP (or precautionary decision-making in general) may be based upon false presumptions about risk-imposition. 14 (Academic OneFile) Besides the argument from vagueness. particularly that of risk governance as a risk-free enterprise. 14 (Academic OneFile) In sum. the policy implications of the PP may be incoherent. Intro to the 'Incoherence' argument Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium.) The principle threatens to be paralysing. The argument from incoherence is also found in Cass R." In their paper "Extending Human Lifespan and the Precautionary Paradox". Fellow. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE..g. Harris and Holm. Iss. Third. Iss. 2004-05. and precautionary actions. Morris). the application of the PP results in demands. In short. If so. The regulation that the principle requires always gives rise to risks of its own--and hence the principle bans what it simultaneously mandates (. Their main argument is that the principle cannot coherently be employed as a decision rule. because it condemns the very steps that it requires. University of Turku. it purports to give guidance. an epistemic rule. John Harris and argued to be inherently incoherent (e. inaction. the Precautionary Principle Page 4 of 11 Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. The real problem with the Precautionary Principle in its strongest forms is that it is incoherent. the PP may be employed in argumentation and policymaking in inconsistent. the PP is currently vague in several senses. In order to evaluate the argument from incoherence. one would have to show why the case of the PP is different from. More specifically. i. 2. or problematic for. Vagueness is not unique to. Philosophy. and that this reason is strong enough for the rejection of the principle.e. and thus--when applied symmetrically to different risks (taking also into account the risks induced by regulatory actions)--implies contradictory conduct-guidance. which are impossible to implement in practice. Fellow. 14 (Academic OneFile) If Comstock. 5. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. thus. 11. forbidding regulation. University of Turku. the principle has been The basic logic of the argument from incoherence is as follows: incoherent principles should not be used as a basis for societal risk decision-making.

14 (Academic OneFile) that the PP can be used in argumentation and actual policymaking in inconsistent ways is a fact. 2004-05. rejection is not warranted Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. About the 'adverse effects' argument Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. then. the Commission (CEC) urges that precautionary measures which will be taken should be consistent with similar measures implemented earlier. How. 5. Iss. but a kind of a meta-rule (or general guideline) on how to use principles in the first place. 14 (Academic OneFile) if one takes a look at the formulations of the PP found in official documents and in the academic commentary literature. Technology and Society. the argument from incoherence put forward by the critics of the PP is not convincing. 3. that is. in their Communication on the PP. 4. it becomes obvious that the definitions of the principle per se are not contradictory (see e. PP. Philosophy. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. Thus. Accordingly. the principle is not incoherent in this sense. Philosophy. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. The principle per se is not incoherent. Technology and Society. 11. Not only the PP but also the other decision-making principles can be employed in inconsistent ways. Technology and Society. I assess the three forms of this argument one by one. namely from the consequences of our imperfect knowledge about the nature and its causal relationships and (sometimes stochastic) interactions. University of Turku. 2004-05. Fellow. but that it is impossible to exclude the very possibility of invoked precautionary actions (or measures) resulting in a severe environmental damage or in health hazards. Although they should not be used in such ways. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. and--given certain specifications to the trigger condition and to the prescribed action in the formation of the principle--it does not imply contradictory conduct-guidance. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” Third. University of Turku. and is non-contradictory Page 5 of 11 Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. to explain Comstock's position? What he is most probably thinking is not the inherent incoherence in a particular definition of the Next. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three . But this--as being external to the PP--does not provide a sufficient reason to abandon the principle altogether. University of Turku. Fellow. 11. 2004-05. 14 (Academic OneFile) In sum. the (kind of a first-order) precautionary action prescribed by the PP should be taken and should not be taken at the same time. 11. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. ways. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. Fellow. comparable in scope and nature to those already taken in equivalent areas in which relevant and adequate scientific data is available.g. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. Philosophy. Technology and Society. The critics seem to derive from a common source. Iss. A2: ADVERSE AFFECTS 1. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. First. The Precautionary principle is well-defined.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE. and thus that the PP should also be applied to the precautionary actions prescribed by the very same principle. For example. Fellow. 2004-05. Iss. The PP--as commonly defined--does not simultaneously state that precautionary measures should be taken and should not be taken. and the possible incoherent formulations can be easily revised. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle thus unacceptable. the prescription not to do so is not inherent in the principles themselves. Inconsistency with the Precautionary Principle is an external factor. December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. The incoherence argument fails to provide a convincing reason to reject the Precautionary Principle Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. Wingspread Statement). Philosophy. University of Turku.

) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. it has been argued that the implementation of the PP would lead to serious and commonly unwanted consequences. 14 (Academic OneFile) The use of the PP may result in different kinds of adverse effects--directly or indirectly. even when there have been cases in which taken precautions have de facto resulted in detrimental effects. It is also important to notice that pre-emptive measures prescribed by the PP may take the form of outright bans. University of Turku. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. In his book entitled The Precautionary Principle: A Critical Appraisal of Environment Risk Assessment. he considers three specific case examples: the use of DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane) in the developing countries. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. In particular. Philosophy. It should be noted. 3. 11. the problems. most often. 2004-05. In particular. First. Technology and Society. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. The argument from adverse effects says that. are framed too narrowly. that although Goklany (2000:221) argues that the implementation of the proposed precautionary bans and controls "would. This argument also takes several forms. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle Criticisms” Page 6 of 11 December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. and possible benefits and risks of the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. but also that of pre-market testing. Iss. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. Indur Goklany (2001. in themselves. 'Adverse effects' claims are not usually well-grounded. more generally. In his view. As is seen above (in the Section 2. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. Still another kind of a precautionary response would be the establishment and implementation of new precautionary risk assessment methodologies (see e. phase-outs and moratoria. labelling and requests for extra scientific information before proceeding. Second. see also 2000) provides us with a detailed analysis as to why the application of the PP to various contentious environmental issues may lead to undesirable effects and to increased risk-taking. he does not conclude that the PP should be abandoned altogether.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE. 14 (Academic OneFile) When the PP is objected on the grounds of adverse (or no) effects. 11. Iss. the PP increases our risk-imposition in total. 11. the effects of greenhouse gases emissions and. precautionary measures taken may. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. both risks should be considered symmetrically. 14 (Academic OneFile) In addition to the alleged problems of vagueness and incoherence. 2004-05. however. Tickner 2003). Technology and Society. and thus that the principle should be abandoned as a policymaking tool. in fact. i. impose a new environmental threat or a health hazard. University of Turku. an understanding of the PP in which the consequences of the precautionary measures are not taken into consideration has been employed. the following facts should be borne in mind. the effects of global warming. instead of decreasing it. Fellow. If a precautionary response to a threat imposed another risk (or an actual loss with the probability of which being one) that is regarded as unacceptable. Philosophy. public health and environmental consequences. increase overall risks to public health and the environment". the argument from adverse effects is put forward in the form of a conditional without a reference to empirical observations or studies on the issue.2.g.e. and are based on narrow applications of the Precautionary Principle Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. Indur Goklany does not conclude with a rejection of the principle Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. these particular formulations (or interpretations) of the PP should be abandoned. First. 2. Fellow. the increased risk-taking follows from the current misapplication of the PP "on a limited set of consequences of the policies themselves" (221). the PP has been invoked to justify bans and tightened controls. In all of these cases. . Iss.).

14 (Academic OneFile) First. it is presumed that the strict boundary between scientific knowledge and unscientific beliefs (i. the increasing change. and the serious consequences of this omission (see also Wingspread Moreover. mere opinions or speculative guesses) is appropriate to the governance of environmental risks. nothing gained. Technology and Society. Philosophy. Notwithstanding this.S. the stakes have become higher than before. European Environment Agency's report Late Lessons from Early Warnings: The Precautionary Principle 1896-2000 (EEA 2001) examines fourteen case studies on taking no precaution in the state of uncertainty. and the new possibilities provided by the rapid technological development). 2 (Academic OneFile) [Brackets Added] We should aspire to making precautionary thinking second nature. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. 11. 30 Iss. First. Our limited understanding of several natural processes and related risks has increasingly been admitted and emphasised. full speed ahead. for the better. "Damn[Forget] the torpedoes. Laundry List of reasons we need the Precautionary Principle Page 7 of 11 Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. Statement). Conclusive scientific proof has been employed as a prerequisite for taking preventative measures. there have often been weak indicators (or early 'warnings') of damage before its materialisation. Editor. Environmental Research Foundation.. University of Turku. we should aim to make it unthinkable to undertake a project or product without examining all available alternatives to find the least harmful way. Because the available evidence for the threats has not fulfilled the strict criteria of scientific knowledge. Just as it would be unthinkable to reintroduce chattel slavery in the U. Post-doctoral Research Fellow. real risks have been ignored with highly detrimental consequences. Second. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE. the prevailing institutionalised risk governance methodology (especially quantitative risk assessment) has been subjected to substantial criticism. Rachel's Environment and Health News) “Burden of Proof: The Precautionary Principle” March-April 2009 Published in the MULTINATIONAL MONITOR Vol. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle ADVOCACY 1. owing to a number of factors (such as the growth in the world's population. a growing recognition of ecosystems' sensitivity as well as of their intra. nothing ventured. We should put the burden of proof of safety and efficacy onto all economic actors. do no harm. In this methodological approach. that the popularity and highlighted nature of the PP may reflect a change in people's fundamental values and world-views and/or a changed situation with regard to the inducement and management of environmental threats and health hazards is also worth noticing. Rachel's Environment and Health News) “Burden . A2: COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS 1. 2. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. Peter Montague(Director." We need to embrace and champion those opposing threads that are woven throughout our culture: A stitch in time saves nine. 2004-05. Lastly. Fellow. Better safe than sorry. Iss. taking absolutely no precaution would be immoral from the ethical point of view and irrational from the decision theory's point of view. has favored for 200 years. As our technologies grow evermore powerful and therefore ever-more dangerous. Human action can lead--and has already contributed--to serious and irreversible environmental damage.S. Environmental Research Foundation.e. Editor. complexity and interdependencies of societies.and interdependencies is not without significance. Precaution needs to be second nature Peter Montague(Director. Precautionary Principle shifts the burden from the cost-benefit analysis. Furthermore. which is roughly. we need to alter the approach that the U.

in the modern world. 2 As lawyer-scientist Joseph Guth has shown in a series of scholarly papers. Editor. But we can see from the short and very incomplete catalog of problems mentioned previously. cost-benefit analysis enjoys a special status in U.. U. ignorance or doubt. the Precautionary Principle is the only way to preempt irreversible harm Peter Montague(Director. faced with uncertainty. a product or project is likely to be harmful.. food and drug law assumes a new drug is harmful or useless or both. that we have exceeded the Earth's capacity to absorb harm-- . under these assumptions. common law and government regulations all presume that economic growth provides net benefits (more benefits than costs) to society until an explicit costbenefit analysis can show otherwise. Shifting this assumption is necessary because the world has been badly damaged by the cost-benefit approach in which all economic activities are assumed to produce more benefits than harms. childhood cancers. it relies on a false assumption. This list could be readily extended. Environmental Research Foundation. and (b) the harms they are adding to the system will not degrade human health or the natural environment. scientific uncertainty. Even when considerable harm is acknowledged. the Earth and the human species can absorb costs without limit.S. etc. attention deficits. species going extinct at roughly 1. several kinds of birth defects increasing. Rachel's Environment and Health News) “Burden of Proof: The Precautionary Principle” March-April 2009 Published in the MULTINATIONAL MONITOR Vol.000 times the historical rate. diabetes. Given the starting presumption. asking them to show that they are (a) doing things in the least harmful way possible. many chronic diseases increasing (e. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle of Proof: The Precautionary Principle” March-April 2009 (Academic OneFile) Page 8 of 11 Published in the MULTINATIONAL MONITOR Vol. it is up to the public (or their government) to show that costs exceed benefits. Given that the world is experiencing this perfect storm of environment and health problems.S. statutory law. 30 Iss. girls reaching puberty earlier than in the past. asthma. ozone layer depletion. the law presumes that economic growth should continue--until an explicit cost-benefit analysis can show conclusively that the costs to society outweigh any benefits. Cost-benefit analysis cannot be used. even when it is acknowledged to be causing substantial harm. autism spectrum disorder. the starting presumption is that economic growth provides more benefits than costs. 30 Iss. This has led to the rise of an industry devoted to the creation of uncertainty and doubt. David Michaels has described this industry in his excellent book. costs can grow without limit. male fish turning into female fish in essentially all fresh waters of the U.S. As you can see. Therefore. law was designed to promote economic growth. With few exceptions. The world is now burdened with a growing list of very substantial harms--global warming.g. The precautionary principle shifts the starting assumption. 2. a majority of marine fisheries depleted or badly overfished. an economic activity can continue. Doubt is Their Product. If they fail to meet that burden.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE. 2 (Academic OneFile) The assumption of cost-benefit analysis has always been that benefits and their associated. to achieve some benefit. law and policy.). though lesser. the precautionary principle shifts the burden of proof onto economic actors. just the way U. doubt and ignorance allow economic activity to continue.S. Precaution assumes that. The law assumes that. From the mid-19th century onward.

4. Despite this. 2 (Academic OneFile) In cost-benefit analysis. 30 Iss. the precautionary approach considers scientific uncertainty a reasonable basis for action--precautionary action to avoid harm. It is worth pointing out that. In its place. regulators and judges are not legally allowed to acknowledge this fatal flaw in the costbenefit approach because of the presumptions built into our laws and regulations. On the other hand. The presumptions built into our current legal decision-structure are profoundly unscientific. the loss of the planet as a suitable habitat for humans would be an infinite loss for our species. The precautionary principal asks. Editor. we need to examine every decision that could impact the Earth and human health from a precautionary perspective. and that therefore human activities can continue to impose costs on the global ecosystem without limit. Cost-benefit analysis discards scientific uncertainty Peter Montague(Director. Environmental Research Foundation. The basic assumption is that the planet has an infinite capacity to absorb harm from human economic activities. Environmental Research Foundation. the precautionary approach is actually far more scientific than the current decision-making structure based on cost-benefit analysis. "Is this harm avoidable?" 3. so far as anyone knows. Here . As Joe Guth has pointed out. Rachel's Environment and Health News) “Burden of Proof: The Precautionary Principle” March-April 2009 Published in the MULTINATIONAL MONITOR Vol. this planet is the only place in the universe that is hospitable to our species. or harm human health further--and we must now always ask whether a product or project is being approached in the least-harmful way possible. So we can see that our regulatory system is based on a premise that scientists know is no longer valid. threatening the future of our species. asking whether it is likely to degrade the planet further. CBA frameworks in our regulatory system should be rejected Peter Montague(Director. This means that cost-benefit analysis is no longer a useful approach to decisions and should be abandoned. Rachel's Environment and Health News) “Burden of Proof: The Precautionary Principle” March-April 2009 Published in the MULTINATIONAL MONITOR Vol. However. scientific uncertainty is usually not factored in. we are therefore threatening our own existence--so further damage to the planet must be avoided regardless of any benefits promised. As Joe Guth points out. 30 Iss. or even if the answer is unknown. 2 (Academic OneFile) I would say not. the harm is allowed to continue. justifying more costs by claiming that the benefits are large is ultimately suicidal. the system assumes costs can continue to accumulate forever. If we have exceeded the planet's capacity to sustain and regenerate itself from harm. The cumulative impact of millions of small costs--each of which could be justified by a cost-benefit analysis--has degraded the planet. Missing data is assigned a value of zero and is usually not considered at all. "Is this harm justified by related benefits?" If the answer is yes. So long as benefits outweigh costs. Editor.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE. Under these circumstances. So we are toying with the destruction of the place that sustains us. Earth is our only home. Cost-benefit analysis asks. thousands of scientific studies have shown that the global ecosystem has already suffered substantial--and in some cases irreparable--harm and is being permanently degraded. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle Page 9 of 11 we are degrading the capacity of the planet to support human life.

. southern bluefin tuna. In sum.1 of that document contains a standard (albeit weak) statement of the Precautionary Principle: "The absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take conservation and management measures. Yale University) “On Precautionary Policies” 2006 MANAGEMENT SCIENCE vol 52. Decision Support and Risk Group) and Bernard Sinclair-Desgagne(Professor. quantum effects that can dominate the behavior of matter at this scale may give rise to remarkable optical. Member. EXAMPLES 1.. we see the precautionary approach using the full spectrum of scientific information while costbenefit analysis ignores important scientific data. notably through aquaculture.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE. this matter can be taken up as follows. restrictions on the physical characteristics of gears (such as mesh or hook sizes). cosmetics. are precisely what makes them potentially harmful. they have a relatively larger surface area compared with the same mass of unmodified materials. sensors. on the other hand. Operations Research. therefore. the means for self-insurance. London School of Economics. iss 8 (Academic OneFile) the regulation of the potential dangers linked to the production and use of nanotechnologies is perhaps the latest area for which a precautionary approach is called. Despite a few alarming findings (for example. In the present framework. and imaging tissue engineering). Member. In 1992. brain damage in fish and respiratory problems in laboratory rats). thereby lowering the administrative and often political costs of precaution. and Atlantic halibut) were at stake. e. drug delivery. which makes them more chemically reactive. 2. iss 8 (Academic OneFile) The earliest explicit applications of the Precautionary Principle were motivated by the conservation of aquatic species. (24) valuable features of nano substances and devices. is rapidly developing.g. International Economics and Governance. The importance of fisheries for the economy of entire regions. The market. HEC Montreal. Operations Research.g. to health care (e. it is the cost-benefit approach that is unscientific. and marine protected areas. Nanotechnologies are the result of manipulations and designs performed at atomic.5. however. or macromolecular scales (that is. Chair. molecular. between one and one hundred billionth of a meter). HEC Montreal. PhD. Department of International Business. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle Page 10 of 11 again. coatings. fishing schedules and seasons. PhD. Department of Statistics." Examples of self-protecting actions that have been adopted so far in fisheries management include catch and effort limits. International Economics and Governance. absorbing much faster. and magnetic properties. and affects their strength and electrical properties. lead naturally to "err on the side of caution" if survival of a valuable marine variety (such as Atlantic cod. the International Conference on Responsible Fishing launched the "Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. for instance. together with the chaotic patterns of ocean dynamics (see. Second. and data storage). Department of Statistics. quicker to ignite or melt. on the other hand. not the precautionary approach. imaging and monitoring.g. By contrast. These measures were set and are essentially being enforced by government bodies. First. that high surface reactivity and the ability to cross cell membranes might have negative health and environmental impacts. Yale University) “On Precautionary Policies” 2006 MANAGEMENT SCIENCE vol 52.g. Article 7. no scientific These . Example: Fishery conservation of aquatic species Pauline Barrieu(Doctoral Programme Director.. with the conservation of marine species. Decision Support and Risk Group) and Bernard Sinclair-Desgagne(Professor. Rosser 2001). numerous and range from new materials (e. (21) An interesting question nowadays is whether the regulator should rely more on the latter. London School of Economics. miniaturization. Chair.. and ceramics) to electronics (e. The obtained substances and devices thereby present at least two valuable features. Promising applications are." which was endorsed three years later by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Department of International Business. Example: Nanotechnologies Pauline Barrieu(Doctoral Programme Director. One can reasonably suspect. electrical.

(Chapter 10. the risk debate of nanotechnology. Technology and Society. 2004-05. 2004). Precautionary Principle areas of regulatory context Marko Ahteensuu(PhD. and the risk governance of modern biotechnology. marine and fisheries protection. Until more is known about their environmental impact we are keen that the release of nanoparticles and nanotubes to the environment is avoided as far as possible. 1) 3. a group of experts commissioned by The Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineering of the United Kingdom thus recommended that moderate precautionary steps be taken. in national laws (e. the nuclear power risk. p. Overall [however]. Fellow..g. Post-doctoral Research Fellow.. the conservation of our natural environment. Institute for Advanced Studies on Science. climate change and global warming regulation and debate. given appropriate regulation and research along the lines just indicated. Iss. GTA 2004/847) and international agreements (CPB 2000)--within different regulatory contexts. Specifically. University of Turku. Institutions and Social Mechanisms Consortium. ) “Defending the Precautionary Principle Against Three Criticisms” December 2007 Published in TRAMES social sciences journal Vol. SC Aff – Precautionary Principle Page 11 of 11 consensus currently exists on this issue. we recommend as a precautionary measure that factories and research laboratories treat manufactured nanoparticles and nanotubes as if they were hazardous and reduce them from waste streams(. we see no case for the moratorium which some have advocated on the laboratory or commercial production of manufactured nanomaterials. (25) In a recent study that considers the regulator's options in this context (Dowling et al. . 11. the protection of the ozone layer.Matsui/Ridenour – SHINE. 14 (Academic OneFile) The PP has been invoked in various fields of academic risk and policy debates as well as in actual policymaking. Philosophy. Its relevance touches upon. It is included in a number of official documents--for example. for example. that is. the risks of radio frequency electromagnetic fields.).

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