Rachel's Precaution Reporter #30  [Printer-friendly version]
March 22, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: The City of Berkeley, California, formally
adopted a "Precautionary Principle" ordinance March 21.]

The City Council of Berkeley, California formally adopted an
ordinance entitled "Precautionary Principle" March 21. The Council
had approved a "first reading" of the ordinance March 7 but final
approval had to wait for a "second reading" March 21.

The ordinance, as passed, defines the city's "precautionary principle
policy as follows:

"City of Berkeley Precautionary Principle policy: Where threats of
serious or irreversible damage to people or nature exist, lack of full
scientific certainty about cause and effect shall not be viewed as
sufficient reason for the City to postpone measures to prevent the
degradation of the environment or protect human health. Any gaps in
scientific data uncovered by the examination of alternatives will
provide guideposts for future research, but will not prevent
protective action being taken by the City. As new scientific data
become available, the City will review its decisions and make
adjustments when warranted."

And the new ordinance defines the elements of a "precautionary
approach" this way:

"Precautionary Principle approach" shall mean a course of action
and decision-making by the City guided by the following tenets:

1. Anticipatory Action: Anticipatory action may prevent harm.
Government, business, community groups, and the public share this

2. Right to Know: The community has a right to know complete and
accurate information on potential health and environmental impacts
associated with the selection of products, services, operations or

3. Alternatives Assessment: Examine a full range of alternatives and
select the alternative with the least potential impact on health and
the environment including the alternative of doing nothing.

4. Consideration of Significant Costs: Consider significant short-term
and long-term costs in comparing product alternatives, when feasible.
This includes evaluation of significant costs expected during the
lifetime of a product, (e.g. raw materials, manufacturing and
production, transportation, use, clean-up, acquisition, extended
warranties, operation, supplies, maintenance, disposal costs, long and
short-term environmental and health impacts); and that expected
lifetime compared to other alternatives.

5. Participatory Decision Process: Decisions applying the
Precautionary Principle should be transparent, participatory by
including community input, and informed by the best available

The full text of the new Berkeley precaution ordinance can be found