What Price Safety? The Precautionary Principle and its Policy Implications
21 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2002
The European Commission is actively promoting the precautionary principle as a 'key tenet' of Community policy, as well as a general principle of international law. This article explains why this promotional effort is likely to fail or to produce unanticipated and undesirable consequences. The principle has a legitimate but limited role to play in risk management, for example whenever there is an imminent danger of irreversible damage. As a general approach to risk regulation, however, it suffers from a number of shortcomings: It lacks a sound logical foundation; it may distort regulatory priorities; it can be misused to justify protectionist measures; it undermines international regulatory co-operation; and it may have undesirable distributive consequences. What is perhaps an even greater cause for concern is that the principle, as interpreted by the Commission, tends to favour a double standard for what is permissible internationally and in intra-Community relations.
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