Rachel's Precaution Reporter #57  [Printer-friendly version]
September 27, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: Right now in Budapest, Hungary, the
International Forum on Chemical Safety is discussing and debating use
of the precautionary principle in chemical safety.]

By Peter Montague

The International Forum on Chemical Safety is meeting now in
Budapest to discuss "Applying the Precautionary Principle in the
Context of Chemical Safety." In preparation for the meeting, many
countries filled out a survey form explaining how they use the
precautionary principle for chemical safety -- and they explain the
difficulties they face. Their responses are available in a summary
format, and in a brief discussion paper. Hats off to Joel Tickner
of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell Background

The International Forum on Chemical Safety was created by national
governments at the the International Conference on Chemical Safety
held in Stockholm in April 1994. IFCS is a intended to be a way for
governments to promote chemical risk assessment and the
environmentally sound management of chemicals. It is an informal place
where government representatives meet with intergovernmental and non-
governmental organizations trying to reach international agreement on
ways to promote chemical safety. Intergovernmental and non-
governmental organizations participate without the right to vote.

Ultimately the goal is to reach agreement on steps to carry out
Chapter 19 of Agenda 21 -- to make and use chemicals sustainably.

In response to the increasing concern of countries and other IFCS
partners over the growing body of scientific research that indicates a
number of chemicals may interfere with the normal functioning of
hormones, the Forum initiated a process to share information and
coordinate research efforts and activities to the extent possible.

It was generally recognized that although the body of information is
growing, considerable scientific uncertainty remains and more research
is needed. This has now led the IFCS to consider the precautionary
principle as a way to deal with the irreducible uncertainties and
unknowns of a western lifestyle built on toxic technologies.

As you can see here, the U.S. is ably represented at the Budapest
meeting by several well-known non-governmental organizations
advocating for precaution, but also by powerful groups opposing
precaution, like the chemical industry and U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency. EPA's position can be summed up as, "We already
practice precaution so we don't need any more of it."

You can find the agenda for the Precaution Plenary at the Budapest
meeting, with links to many presentations here.