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International statements and definitions of the precautionary principle

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2 Author(s)
Petrini, C. ; Ist. Superiore di Sanita, Rome, Italy ; Vecchia, P.

The precautionary principle (PP), according to one of its definitions, says that lack of certainty, given the current scientific and technological knowledge, shall not delay effective and proportionate actions to prevent hazards, taking into account cost-benefit considerations. Rather than being a single principle, a variety of statements of the PP are found in international treaties and other documents. Apart from any specific legal force of the documents, countries (e.g., France) have used these statements as a starting point for their own guidance documents and regulations for addressing specific environmental and health issues, for example regulation of genetically modified organisms. Thus, any discussion of the precautionary principle must address a complex legal and regulatory situation. We briefly review different statements of the PP and important commentary, largely from the European Union. We provide references to the original source documents (many of which are found in English on the World Wide Web).

Published in:

Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE  (Volume:21 ,  Issue: 4 )