Are you familiar with the Precautionary Principle? Many people aren’t, but it’s an important principle to know. “Be careful”, “Better safe than sorry”, “Look before you leap”, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, “First Do No Harm” are adages that sum up the meaning of the Precautionary Principle. The official definition is “… the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted. “ Regarding the Precautionary Principle, Wikipedia states, “When the health of humans and the environment is at stake, it may not be necessary to wait for scientific certainty to take protective action.”
Smoking is a good example of the Precautionary Principle at work. It was strongly suspected that smoking caused lung cancer and emphysema, and as a result many people quit smoking before it was actually proven scientifically.
The Precautionary Principle is widely practiced in the European Union and in fact is a statutory requirement in some areas of law. The European Union is forming a comprehensive policy, which would require all chemicals to be tested for their effects on health and the environment and puts the burden on chemical manufacturers to demonstrate their products are safe. There are of course situations where precaution is applied here as well. The Food and Drug Administration requires testing of all drugs before they reach the market for example. But there are also plenty of situations where precaution is not applied, as with many of the ingredients in personal care products or lawn chemicals.
Naturally there is opposition. Some see the Precautionary Principle as a barrier to technological development and economic growth. But as cancer, obesity, autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, asthma, infertility, diabetes, allergies and other diseases, which might be attributed to chemicals in food and in the environment, become so prevalent in our society, we have no choice but to adopt the Precautionary Principle. Perhaps it’s time to follow the European Union’s lead.
For more information, visit the Science and Environmental Health Network.org.
Information compiled from: https://www.aei.org/publication/the-problems-with-precaution-a-principle-without-principle/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precautionary_principle, and http://www.sehn.org/ppfaqs.html
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