Monday, July 07, 2003

What's wrong with the precautionary principle?

My Spiked colleague, Helene Guldberg, has written a very good piece which outlines the rising popularity of the precautionary principle, and what is wrong with it. Essentially, the precautionary principle does not ask us simply to weigh up the benefits of a new action or product, compared to the negative consequences. That cost-benefit analysis has always been done. Rather, it suggests that we should take a precautionary approach wherever there are conceivable negative impacts. This tends to exaggerate the likelihood of restricting innovation since it is more likely to emphasis the negative effects of doing something over the negative effects of not doing something.

The precautionary principle chimes into an outlook which is cynical about the actions and abilities of humanity, and seems to have very little to do with actually helping people, or making life better.

Challenging the precautionary principle, Spiked, 1 July 2003

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