By Marco Martuzzi and Joel A. Tickner
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Additional info for The precautionary principle: protecting public health, the environment and the future of our children
References Commission of the European Communities, Communication from the Commission on the precautionary principle. Brussels, 2000 (COM(2000) 1). Late lessons from early warnings: the precautionary principle 1896–2000. Luxembourg, EEA, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2001 (Environmental issue report No. 22). Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Montreal, 2000. UNEP, Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.
X But the “absence of scientific proof of the existence of a cause–effect relationship … should not be used to justify inaction. Even if scientific advice is supported by a minority fraction of the scientific community, due account should be taken of their views, provided the credibility and reputation of this fraction are recognized”. x Decision-making procedures should be as transparent as possible. x Reliance on the precautionary principle “is no excuse for derogating from the general principles of risk management”, namely proportionality of response, non-discrimination, consistency of application, examination of costs and benefits and the emergence of new scientific developments.
The Commission’s shift towards a “risk-based” approach is an indication of its desire to move closer to the United States’ interpretation of world trade rules. Thus, where science is genuinely in contention, the communication states the following. x Full transparency should be in place when decisions about whether to wait or not to wait for new scientific findings are made. x The absence of quantifiable probabilities should not be a cause for inaction. 44 3. The precautionary principle: a legal and policy history x If only a minority of scientists demur over a proposed cause of action, their views should be given due account, in a transparent manner.