Applying Precaution in EU Authorisation of Genetically Modified Products — Challenges and Suggestions for Reform

34 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2010  

Maria Weimer

Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance, University of Amsterdam

Abstract

In this article, I endeavour to examine concrete challenges that arise with regard to implementation of the precautionary principle in the field of European Union regulation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Developed by the European courts into a general legal principle, precaution requires EU regulators to strike a balance between scientific and political legitimacy when taking decisions on risk-entailing products. Following this understanding, the current GMO legislation creates precautionary governance structures that allow for a broad input into the authorisation process, not only of scientific, but also of ‘other legitimate factors’. At the same time, it can be criticised for narrowly defining precaution as a decision rule, which, if applied correctly, will lead the decision maker to the ‘right’ decision. I argue that this misconception is one of the reasons why, in the current authorisation practice, the EU institutions fail to apply the principle in a balanced way, falling into the extremes of either purely science-based decision making or a highly politicised precautionary rhetoric. I suggest that in order not to be paralysing, precaution should be understood as a procedural principle that provides for precautionary governance, thus enabling regulators to make appropriate risk choices.

Suggested Citation

Weimer, Maria, Applying Precaution in EU Authorisation of Genetically Modified Products — Challenges and Suggestions for Reform. European Law Journal, Vol. 16, No. 5, pp. 624-657, September 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1665893 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0386.2010.00526.x

Maria Weimer (Contact Author)

Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance, University of Amsterdam ( email )

P.O.Box 1030
Amsterdam, 1000 BA
Netherlands

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