The Precautionary Principle: Development of an International Standard

41 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2010 Last revised: 13 Nov 2012

See all articles by Sonia E. Rolland

Sonia E. Rolland

Northeastern University - School of Law

Date Written: 20002


This Note characterizes and evaluates the current status of the precautionary principle in international law and suggests how it could be more effectively incorporated into bodies of law such as trade law. Much of the literature focuses on whether the principle is a legal rule. This Note shows that precaution need not necessarily fit into the traditional categories of international legal sources but may derive its legal force from being interpreted as a standard.

The Note argues that the legal status of the principle has evolved from a policy discourse to a binding form. However, the status of the principle as a standard is not necessarily a step on the way to the creation of a rule. The fact that a treaty makes it a rule to use precaution does not alter the nature of precaution as a standard. The precautionary principle will therefore gain its legal value from being refined by negotiators and interpreted by adjudicators rather than being turned into a traditional rule.

Keywords: precautinary principle, best efforts, due diligence, international law, environmental law, WTO, ECJ, EU, ITLOS, GMO, fisheries, asbestos, beef hormones

Suggested Citation

Rolland, Sonia Elise, The Precautionary Principle: Development of an International Standard (20002). Michigan Journal of International Law, Vol. 23, p. 429, 2002; Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper. Available at SSRN:

Sonia Elise Rolland (Contact Author)

Northeastern University - School of Law ( email )

400 Huntington Ave.
Boston, 02115
United States
+1 617.37.7331 (Phone)
+1 617.373.5056 (Fax)


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