What Price Safety? The Precautionary Principle and its Policy Implications

21 Pages Posted: 21 Nov 2002

See all articles by Giandomenico Majone

Giandomenico Majone

European University Institute - Economics Department (ECO)


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.

Suggested Citation

Majone, Giandomenico, What Price Safety? The Precautionary Principle and its Policy Implications. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=309126

Giandomenico Majone (Contact Author)

European University Institute - Economics Department (ECO) ( email )

Villa San Paolo
Via della Piazzuola 43
50133 Florence

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