Rachel's Precaution Reporter #34

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, April 19, 2006............Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Comes Out Against Precaution
  In case you had any doubt about the relationship of risk assessment
  to the precautionary principle, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's
  position should make it clear. The Chamber says its objective is to
  "Ensure that regulatory decisions are based on scientifically sound
  and technically rigorous risk assessments, and oppose the adoption of
  the precautionary principle as the basis for regulation."
Exploiting Scientific Uncertainty for Fun and Profit
  "What appears at first blush to be good government reform is in
  fact a backdoor attempt to undermine existing environmental laws. If
  this is successful, the uncertainty manufactured by polluters will be
  written into federal risk assessments, providing the justification to
  weaken public health protection."
The Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Campaign Against Precaution
  The Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, headquartered
  in South Korea, owns the Washington Times, an ultra-right wing voice
  inside Washington, D.C. and indeed inside the White House. The
  Reverend Mr. Moon -- who in 2004 declared himself the reincarnation
  of Jesus Christ -- has decided that the precautionary principle is
  evil, and he has recruited a team of writers who attack precaution
  relentlessly. Stanford University's professor Henry Miller seems to be
  a pawn in the Reverend Mr. Moon's game.


From: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mar. 30, 2006
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Ensure that regulatory decisions are based on scientifically sound and
technically rigorous risk assessments, and oppose the adoption of the
precautionary principle as the basis for regulation.

Summary of the Issue

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports a science-based approach to risk
management where risk is assessed based on scientifically sound and
technically rigorous analysis. Under this approach, regulatory actions
are justified where there are legitimate, scientifically ascertainable
risks to human health, safety, or the environment. That is, the
greater the risk, the greater the degree of regulatory scrutiny. This
standard has served the nation well, and has led to astounding
breakthroughs in the fields of science, health care, medicine,
biotechnology, agriculture, and many other fields. There is, however,
a relatively new theory known as the precautionary principle that is
gaining popularity among environmentalists and other groups. The
precautionary principle says that when the risks of a particular
activity are unclear or unknown, assume the worst and avoid the
activity. It is essentially a policy of risk avoidance.

The regulatory implications of the precautionary principle are
substantial. For instance, the precautionary principle holds that
since the existence and extent of global warming and climate change
are not known, one should assume the worst, and immediately restrict
the use of carbon-based fuels. However the nature and extent of key
environmental, health, and safety concerns require careful scientific
and technical analysis. That is why the U.S. Chamber has long
supported the use of sound science, cost-benefit analysis, and risk
assessment when assessing a particular regulatory issue.

The precautionary principle has been explicitly incorporated into
various laws and regulations in the European Union and various
international bodies. In the United States, radical environmentalists
are pushing for its adoption as a basis for regulating biotechnology,
food and drug safety, environmental protection, and pesticide use.

U.S. Chamber Strategy

Support a science-based approach to risk management, where risk is
assessed based on scientifically sound and technically rigorous

Oppose the domestic and international adoption of the precautionary
principle as a basis for regulatory decision making.

Educate consumers, businesses, and federal policymakers about the
implications of the precautionary principle.

Copyright 2006 U.S. Chamber of Commerce 1615 H St NW Washington DC

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From: Baltimore Sun, Apr. 17, 2006
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By David Michaels**

WASHINGTON -- Thank You for Smoking, which has opened in movie
theaters across the nation, reminds us of the tobacco industry's
diabolical realization that it could delay public health protection by
manufacturing uncertainty about the risks of smoking. For 50 years,
tobacco companies employed a stable of scientists to challenge the
evidence that cigarettes caused lung cancer.

Scientists paid to create doubt dissected every study and highlighted
flaws and inconsistencies in order to convince public health officials
not that cigarettes were safe, but that there was not yet sufficient
evidence of their danger to justify limiting places where tobacco
could be smoked.

Not surprisingly, other industries recognized the brilliance of
tobacco's approach and bankrolled campaigns to discredit studies
documenting the adverse health effects of exposure to lead, mercury,
chromium, beryllium, benzene, plastics and a long list of pesticides
and other toxic chemicals. Manufacturing uncertainty is now so
commonplace that it is unusual for the science behind an environmental
regulation not to be challenged.

These days, the most well-known and probably best-funded of these
campaigns is the one launched by the fossil fuel industry to create
doubt about environmental and public health impacts of global warming.
When confronted by overwhelming worldwide scientific agreement, the
industry and its political allies have followed the tobacco road.

ABC News recently reported on a 1998 memo by the American Petroleum
Institute that reads, "Victory will be achieved when... average
citizens recognize uncertainties in climate science."

In 2002, Republican political consultant Frank Luntz sent his clients
a strategy memo that asserted: "The scientific debate remains open.
Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming in the
scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the
scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will
change accordingly."

Except when political appointees override the judgment of career
federal scientists (as when a White House staffer rewrote an
Environmental Protection Agency report on global warming to highlight
scientific uncertainty), the nonpolitical staff at regulatory agencies
can generally see through these crude efforts to create doubt. And
Congress has refused to pass the Bush administration's attempts, such
as the initiative with the Orwellian name "Clear Skies," to weaken
environmental laws.

Clearly frustrated, the White House is making a run around Congress to
change the way the agencies conduct risk assessments, the studies that
form the basis for health protections. The Office of Management and
Budget has proposed mandatory "guidelines" that would require agencies
to conduct impossibly comprehensive risk assessments before issuing
scientific or technical documents, including the rules polluters have
to follow.

What appears at first blush to be good government reform is in fact a
backdoor attempt to undermine existing environmental laws. If this is
successful, the uncertainty manufactured by polluters will be written
into federal risk assessments, providing the justification to weaken
public health protection.

The White House should thank the tobacco industry for providing the
groundwork for the risk assessment proposal.

Thank you for Smoking was written in the early 1990s, when the
cigarette manufacturers were under attack, particularly from federal
agencies. A 1992 EPA risk assessment estimated that every year,
secondhand tobacco smoke killed 3,000 nonsmokers and caused more than
150,000 respiratory infections among children.

Big tobacco's response, disputing EPA estimates, was spearheaded by
experts in the lucrative new industry science called "product

The cigarette manufacturers' scientists-for-hire were rarely
successful in swaying federal scientists, so the industry arranged for
other legislation whose name was misleading, the "Data Quality Act"
(DQA), to be slipped into an appropriations bill in 2001 without
hearing or debate. The DQA allows affected parties to challenge a
government report or document, giving tobacco a new forum to argue
over science and to further delay the government's smoking prevention

Now, with its risk assessment proposal, the Bush administration is
interpreting the DQA as a license to override the Clean Air Act and
laws meant to protect the public's health and environment.

Years from now, we will view these attempts by the administration and
hired scientific guns to weaken environmental protections with the
same outrage with which we now look back on the deceits perpetrated by
Big Tobacco. But will years from now be too late?

** David Michaels is a professor and associate chairman of the
department of environmental and occupational health at the George
Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. His
e-mail is eohdmm@gwumc.edu.

Copyright 2006, The Baltimore Sun

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From: The Washington Times, Apr. 7, 2006
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By Henry I. Miller

As self-appointed regulator-wannabe of much of what goes on in the
world, the United Nations has become a profoundly negative influence.
While its best known interventions -- attempts to attain and maintain
international peace and comity -- too often are exercises in lowest-
common-denominator diplomacy that progresses at a glacial pace, the
U.N.'s essays into public health and environmental protection
frequently are wrong-headed, self-serving and disastrous.

Underlying the U.N.'s deficiencies is the inability of its leaders to
apprehend the relationship between wealth creation and public and
environmental health -- and between their own flawed policies and the
inevitable failure of their ambitious Millennium Development Goals.
The U.N. agencies' trumpeting supposed successes and promulgating
lofty goals on World Health Day today serve only as a reminder of the
organization's abject failures.

The complicity of many U.N. agencies in the unscientific, ideological
and excessive regulation of biotechnology -- also known as gene-
splicing, or genetic modification (GM) -- has prevented critical
advances in agricultural and pharmaceutical research and development.
Gene-spliced products could alleviate famine and water shortages for
millions, and even lead to the development of vaccines incorporated
into edible fruits and vegetables. But during the past decade,
delegates to the U.N.-based Convention on Biological Diversity have
negotiated and implemented a regressive "biosafety protocol" to
regulate the international movement of gene-spliced organisms. A
travesty that flies in the face of sound science, this regulatory
scheme is based on the bogus "precautionary principle," which dictates
that every new product or technology must be proven completely safe
before it can be used.

Many other U.N. agencies have gotten into the anti-biotech act. A task
force of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the joint food standards
program of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture
Organization, has singled out only food products made with gene-
splicing techniques for draconian and unscientific restrictions that
conflict with the worldwide scientific consensus that gene-splicing is
merely a refinement, or improvement, over less precise and predictable
genetic manipulation techniques that have been used for centuries.
Thousands of greenhouse and field studies, as well as widespread
commercialization in almost a dozen advanced countries, have shown
that the risks of gene-spliced plants and foods are minimal; their
benefits proven; and their future potential, extraordinary. Globally,
the adoption of gene-spliced crops reduces pesticide use by scores of
millions of pounds annually (as well as the frequency of pesticide
poisonings), and saves millions of tons of topsoil from erosion.

The 2001 U.N. Environment Program's Persistent Organic Pollutants
Convention, which stigmatizes the insecticide DDT as one of the
world's worst pollutants, is a regulatory atrocity. It places
virtually insuperable obstacles in the way of the use of the chemical
by developing countries, many of which are plagued by malaria, West
Nile virus and other insect-borne diseases.

Not only do U.N. officials dismiss scientific evidence that
demonstrates the effectiveness and relative safety of DDT, they also
fail to take into consideration the inadequacy of alternatives or to
appreciate the distinction between its large-scale use in agriculture
(which has been discontinued) and more limited application for
controlling carriers of human disease.

A complete prohibition on DDT usage is tantamount to withholding
antibiotics from patients with infections; it is mass murder, and the
U.N. is a co-conspirator in the deadly campaign against the chemical's

Another example of the U.N.'s willingness to adopt extreme positions
occurred at last year's annual World Health Assembly, the policy-
making body of the World Health Organization, at which the delegates
adopted a resolution that supposedly reflects concern about potential
bacterial contamination of powdered infant formula. According to the
WHO, two low-weight babies died in 2004 in hospitals in France, and
one in New Zealand, supposedly from formula contaminated by bacteria.
The stories are tragic, but even if true, hardly constitute an

The resolution proclaims that infant formula is not sterile and "may
contain pathogenic microorganisms" that allegedly have been a cause of
infection and illness in pre-term and low birth-weight infants, and
"could lead to serious developmental [damage] and death." It calls for
a warning label and for health-care workers and parents, particularly
those caring for infants at high risk, to be informed about the
"potential for introduced contamination" and the need for safe
preparation, handling and storage of infant formula. Finally, it
concludes that babies should be breast-fed exclusively for six months
and calls for precautions in preparing formula for those at high-risk,
such as pre-term, low birth-weight or immune-deficient infants. But
infant formula already had carried explicit information about storage,
preparation and handling. The resolution appears not to have been
motivated by legitimate concerns about the product in question, but
rather by the anti-corporate bias that pervades the U.N. and its
supporters. The label's misleading warning about dangerous pathogens
discourages the use of formula in situations where it is needed. How
ironic that the slogan for this year's World Health Day is, "Working
together for health," because the U.N.'s actions are rife with
contradictions and conflicts that not only are harmful to health, but
also make a mockery of the organization's own overblown Millennium
Development Goals. One goal, for example, aims to reverse the spread
of malaria and several other infectious diseases by 2015, while the
U.N. Environment Program bans DDT, an effective and inexpensive
intervention against malaria.

The most ambitious objective, "to eradicate extreme poverty and
hunger" by 2015, certainly cannot be accomplished without innovative
technology -- which, in turn, cannot be developed in the face of
excessive regulatory barriers and bureaucracies. The Food and
Agriculture Organization calls on one hand for greater allocation of
resources to agriculture, and then makes those resources less cost-
effective by gratuitous, unscientific over-regulation of the new

An important way to "reduce child mortality," another goal, would be
to produce pediatric vaccines cheaply in gene-spliced edible fruits
and vegetables, but there is near-hysteria at Codex, the U.N.'s food
standards agency, over conjectural food-safety problems with this

The secretary-general of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization
announces that "integrated water-resources management is the key to
achieving the Millennium Development Goals of securing access to safe
water, sanitation and environmental protection," while other U.N.
agencies are making virtually impossible the development of gene-
spliced plants that can grow with low-quality water or under drought

T.S. Eliot could have had the U.N. in mind with his observation, "Hell
is the place where nothing connects."

Regulation is a growth industry at the U.N., but the approach taken
regularly defies scientific consensus and common sense. The result is
vastly inflated R&D costs, less innovation, and diminished
exploitation of superior techniques and products -- especially in
poorer countries, which need them desperately.

I think we need yet another Millennium Development Goal: Stop
genocide-by-regulation at the U.N.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and fellow at the Hoover Institution,
headed the FDA's Office of Biotechnology from 1989 to 1993.

Copyright 2006 News World Communications, Inc.

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  Rachel's Precaution Reporter offers news, views and practical
  examples of the Precautionary Principle, or Foresight Principle, in
  action. The Precautionary Principle is a modern way of making
  decisions, to minimize harm. Rachel's Precaution Reporter tries to
  answer such questions as, Why do we need the precautionary
  principle? Who is using precaution? Who is opposing precaution?

  We often include attacks on the precautionary principle because we  
  believe it is essential for advocates of precaution to know what
  their adversaries are saying, just as abolitionists in 1830 needed
  to know the arguments used by slaveholders.

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  principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- 
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