Rachel's Precaution Reporter #86

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2007............Printer-friendly version
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Table of Contents...

Finally -- a Voice of Reason in the Fight Against Cancer
  Breast Cancer Action supports the precautionary principle, which
  would caution against waiting for absolute proof of harm before
  discontinuing the use of hormones in food production.
Court in British Columbia Refuses to Require Precaution
  In British Columbia, a court has ruled that it cannot require B.C.
  power authorities to take a precautionary approach to siting high-
  voltage power lines.
Marin County, California Adopts a Zero Waste Resolution
  At its regular meeting April 17, 2007, The Marin County, California
  Board of Supervisors adopted a zero waste resolution. The meeting
  was recorded for web cast and is available for viewing.
Green Building & The Precautionary Principle
  An interview with Ted Schettler on green building and the
  precautionary principle.
EU-Funded Fisheries Project Making Waves Internationally
  A new approach to studying the social impact of fisheries (and the
  loss of fisheries) has begun to embed precaution into cost-benefit
Report Links Phone Masts to Cancer
  In England, as in the U.S., the precautionary principle is one of
  the main arguments being used by opponents of cell phone towers, or
  "masts," especially those being proposed for locations near schools
  and other places where children spend time.
Editorial: If Climate's Changing So Must We
  "Doubt (formalised in the precautionary principle) should move us
  in a sensible direction. There is no question that making our 'carbon
  footprint' smaller will have the happy consequence of being kind to
  the environment, even if it cannot be established conclusively it will
  change the weather."


From: Canyon News (Beverly Hills, Calif.), Apr. 15, 2007
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By Jill Chapin

Hooray for Breast Cancer Action! They recently did what no other
cancer organization has done to date. It was so simple, really, but
apparently it was just too controversial for such revered
organizations as the American Cancer Society, the American Medical
Association, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Breast Cancer
Coalition, and countless other groups who you would think would be
espousing certain precautions to protect the public's health.

So what did they do? Well, they actually went out on a limb and gave
us a recommendation regarding cancer prevention that was based on
common sense instead of political correctness.

Paraphrasing from Katrina Kahl's column in the BCA Source, she cited
a study in the November 2006 issue of the Archives of Internal
Medicine. It found a trend between increased red meat consumption and
increased risk of hormone-fueled breast cancers. You may have read of
this correlation in the papers recently. But news items referring to
this pointed the finger at all red meat being the culprit rather than
just the hormone-injected meat.

It seems mighty odd that no news sources mentioned those hormones,
especially since the researchers themselves noted the potential
correlation between eating hormone-injected meat with hormone-fueled
breast cancers.

As Ms. Kahl notes, this very possible correlation prompted the
European Union to ban the use of hormones to raise livestock as far
back as 1988. Do you question why the United States has failed to ban
hormones in our food supply? Do you think it might be because the
added hormones, which have no nutritional benefit for consumers
nevertheless reap huge financial benefits for producers? A discerning
person might conclude that our government is more concerned about the
fiscal health of our meat and dairy suppliers than they are about the
health of us poor suckers at the supermarket.

Since our country enforces no ban on this highly suspect cause of
cancers, wouldn't you at least think that those whose business it is
to eradicate this insidious disease would at least step forward and
advise unwary consumers to avoid hormone-laden meat and dairy
products? I have contacted several organizations, and in a Stepford
Wives drone, their representatives spew out their boiler plate
response that studies are ongoing but are still inconclusive.

I've said this before but it bears repeating -- this excuse is mocked
by Europeans who call our delaying strategy "paralysis by analysis."
But it's not really funny, because people are dying while our
government refuses to do the right thing by taking preventative action
now. There is nothing wrong with studies, but they should be done in
conjunction with precautionary measures, not before.

Which is exactly why I am cheering for Breast Cancer Action. As the
article said, BCA supports the precautionary principle, which would
caution against waiting for absolute proof of harm before
discontinuing the use of hormones in food production. And they
actually have a plan that all of us can immediately implement,
starting with our next meal. Their simple advice is to choose hormone-
free meat and dairy products. Look for meat with a "USDA-certified
organic" or "hormone free" labels. For dairy products, look for
organic, or "rBST-free or "rBGH-free" labels.

We have no idea how many cancers we could be preventing in our
households by following their recommendation. But if you are skeptical
about this low-tech idea for reducing the numbers of new cancers,
consider this: With one simple pronouncement several years ago
advising women to stop taking the hormone replacement Prem Pro, new
breast cancers posted a significant decline in the following years.
What if we should also see a further decline if we stop ingesting
hormones in our food supply?

Maybe then we could better understand not only the limitations of
science to come up with a cure, but the possibility of enlightened
consumers to come up with something even better.

A prevention.

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From: Oilweek, Apr. 13, 2007
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B.C. Appeal Court rejects bid to block new power lines through
Tsawwassen (Power-Lines-Appeal)

VANCOUVER -- A group of residents from the Vancouver suburb of
Tsawwassen has lost another attempt to stop installation of new
power lines on an existing right-of-way.

The B.C. Court of Appeal has rejected the residents' bid for the court
to review the B.C. Utilities Commission's decision to approve the
higher-voltage lines by B.C. Transmission Corp. and B.C. Hydro.

The group is concerned the new power lines will increase the electro-
magnetic fields along the right-of-way, which it believes pose a
health risk to neighbouring residents.

But in a unanimous decision issued Friday, the three-judge Appeal
Court panel declined to revisit the commission's decision.

The power line opponents initially submitted 21 issues for the court
to consider.

But in granting leave to appeal, the court ultimately limited its
review to the legal question of whether B.C. Transmission had the
right to put new lines the existing right-of-way.

But in its ruling, the court said the residents' case was an attempt
to rehash the utilities' commission ruling.

The residents had argued utilities regulators should have used the
"precautionary principle" in rejecting the power line upgrade.

But the Appeal Court noted the commission studied the health issue and
found no conclusive scientific evidence electro-magnetic fields were

The court is not in a position to substitute its judgment on how those
factors should be weighed, the ruling said.

Copyright 2007 JuneWarren Publishing Ltd.

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From: Marin County Board of Supervisors, Apr. 17, 2007
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RESOLUTION NO. 2007-_____


WHEREAS, the California Integrated Waste Management Act of 1989 (AB
939) required all California jurisdictions to achieve a landfill
diversion rate of 50% by the year 2000, and to reduce, reuse, recycle;
and to compost all discarded materials to the maximum extent feasible
before any landfilling or other destructive disposal method is used;

WHEREAS, the County of Marin has established itself as a state leader
in waste diversion and sustainability practices by exceeding the
requirements of AB 939 to achieve a 77% diversion rate in 2004 and is
constantly looking for innovative ways to decrease waste; and

WHEREAS, in 2001 the California Integrated Waste Management Board set
a goal of Zero Waste in its strategic plan for the state; and cities,
councils, counties, and states worldwide have adopted a goal of
achieving zero waste, including the counties of San Francisco, Santa
Cruz, San Luis Obispo, and Del Norte in California; the cities of Palo
Alto, Oakland and Berkeley in California, Seattle in Washington,
Toronto in Canada, and Canberra in Australia; and the state of New
South Wales in Australia; and 45% of New Zealand's local government
councils; and

WHEREAS, strategies to reach zero waste can help to promote the over-
arching goal of each generation leaving less of an ecological
footprint on the earth; and

WHEREAS, on February 14, 2006 the Marin County Board of Supervisors
signed the United Nations World Environment Day Urban Environmental
Accords, pledging that the County of Marin would implement 21 action
steps toward sustainability in the areas of energy, waste reduction,
urban design, transportation, environmental health, and water
including: Establish a policy to achieve zero waste; and

WHEREAS, the Marin County Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Joint
Powers Authority passed a Zero Waste resolution on November 9TH 2006.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the County of Marin joins the
Marin County Hazardous and Solid Waste Management Joint Powers
Authority ("JPA") representing the eleven cities and towns of Marin
and the County of Marin, and hereby adopts the goal of 80% landfill
diversion by 2012 and a Zero Waste Goal by 2025.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County of Marin, through the JPA,
will support the review of the Regional Integrated Waste Management
Plan and the development of a Strategic Plan that will provide
guidance in the planning and decision-making process to achieve the
County's Zero Waste Goal.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the County of Marin will partner with
regional and international communities to actively pursue strategies
that will go beyond reuse and recycling to eliminate waste upstream.

PASSED AND ADOPTED at a regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors of
the County of Marin held on this 17th day of April, 2007, by the
following vote:

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From: Healthy Building News, Apr. 12, 2007
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LEEDing With Precaution

Dr. Ted Schettler[1] On Green Building & The Precautionary Principle

By Bill Walsh, National Coordinator, Healthy Building Network

Dr. Ted Schettler is the author of Generations at Risk, MIT Press

"USGBC [U.S. Green Building Council] will be guided by the
precautionary principle in utilizing technical and scientific data to
protect, preserve and restore the health of the global environment,
ecosystems and species." -- US Green Building Council Guiding
Principle # 4

"When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human
health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and
effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."
-- Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle 1998

BW: The US Green Building Council recently adopted the Precautionary
Principle as one of six guiding principles for the organization. It is
the first business association in the United States to make this
commitment, and the only group that sets "green" standards that had
done so. Why is this important?

TS: It is important because it distinguishes the group and defines
the green building movement as a serious effort to recreate a massive
and fundamental sector of the global economy to be healthy and
sustainable. The UN's 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and
Development stated that the precautionary approach needed to be widely
applied if we were to avoid serious irreversible damage to the earth's
living systems. The USGBC's approach is fair, wise, necessary, and
ultimately cost effective because prevention usually costs less than
remediation with more equitable distribution of costs and benefits.

BW: How do you think the precautionary principle meshes with the
green building movement?

TS: It seems to me that in critical respects the rationale for the
green building movement parallels the rationale for the precautionary
principle movement in science. Both movements present a head-on
challenge to old assumptions upon which the status quo rests, for
example, that humans are largely separate from the environment and
that we largely understand and can control and shape natural systems
to our ultimate benefit. Both are clear that ethics and values should
be present and transparent in the role of science-based decisions and
professional practice. Both weigh a responsibility to future
generations in the balance of the judgments they make today. And both
are challenged by defenders of the old order who trivialize these
concerns as "unscientific" and "emotional."

BW: What is your response to those charges?

TS: Values and ethics are and have always been integral to good
science. Proponents of the Precautionary Principle are explicit and
transparent about the values we bring to the science and its
application -- the importance of preventing harm, respect for the
integrity of ecological systems that support life, and responsibility
to this and future generations are among them. Critics of the
Precautionary Principle often fail to state the values they seek to
further with their method -- they foster the myth that science is
value-free. In truth, science always includes value judgments, such as
determining an appropriate threshold for declaring something to be
proven when absolute certainty is unattainable. "Lack of proof" is
often used as an excuse to postpone protective measures, without
making it clear that "proof" is a concept with political and social as
well as scientific dimensions. Scientists must also decide whether to
favor false positive or false negative conclusions when analyzing
data. "Safety" is not provable because you can't prove something will
not happen, so any determination of "safety" is a value judgment, not
an objective truth. Primary prevention is a basic principle of public
health, and preventive measures often entail acting before cause and
effect relationships are fully understood.

BW: The USGBC embraced the precautionary principle amidst a
sustained challenge by the chemicals, plastics and timber industries
advocating for much less rigorous green building standards. Those
industries account for an influential percentage of the building
materials economy, and they are leading opponents of the Precautionary
Principle globally. What do you make of this?

TS: I think one thing that resonates with green building
professionals is the complexity of models. People who try to
understand how a complex system like a building functions are more
comfortable than some others are with the notion of everything being
interconnected, and the unlikelihood that there is a single definitive
cause and effect answer to complex questions. Like most people, green
building professionals are surprised to learn that the safety of most
chemicals we use routinely has not been evaluated, even if they are
legal to use. So the argument against precaution -- that we postpone
making changes until we have proven the cause and effect link between
a chemical exposure and an adverse impact -- rightfully appears overly
simplistic, counterintuitive and even counterproductive.

BW: From toxic chemicals to climate change, the most heated debates
in society are not so much about what to do to address a problem, but
whether there really is a problem. We spend years debating conflicting
scientific data, or bemoaning inadequate scientific data. How does the
Precautionary Principle address the question of uncertainty?

TS: It is important to acknowledge various kinds of uncertainty. One
kind of uncertainty is statistical. This has to do with not knowing
the exact value of a single variable like, for example, off-gassing
from a building material. But we can measure it and ultimately reduce
the uncertainty considerably. Another kind of uncertainty is model
uncertainty. This arises from inadequate understanding of the
relationships among variables in a system. How, for example, will that
off-gassing affect building occupants over time? This is far more
complex and difficult to study. As models become more complex,
uncertainty evolves into indeterminacy. This leads to fundamental
uncertainty. Here we deal not only with indeterminacy but often fail
to know what we don't know. We may not even know what questions to
ask. Precaution takes a respectful approach to complex systems,
acknowledges the limits of science, and is wary of arrogance. A
precautionary approach looks for early warning signs and opportunities
for prevention. Whatever we know, do we know enough to act? Do we have
other ways of doing things that respond to early warnings and avoid
foreseeable problems? Precautionary decision-making can actually
increase options and add resilience to the system. As I learn more
about green building, it seems to me that these notions fit
comfortably within the evolving discipline of the green building

BW: I have to end my questions here, but I would encourage
interested readers to visit the FAQ section of the Science and
Environmental Health Network, your comprehensive website,www.sehn.org.


[1] Ted Schettler has a medical degree from Case Western Reserve
University and a Masters degree in Public Health from Harvard
University. He is Science Director of the Science and Environmental
Health Network. (www.sehn.org). Dr. Schettler co-authored
Generations at Risk (MIT Press, 1999), which examines the reproductive
health effects of exposure to a variety of environmental toxicants,
and In Harm's Way -- Toxic Threats to Child Development, which examines
the impacts of environmental contaminants on children's neurological
development. He has served on the advisory committees of the US EPA
and National Academy of Sciences.

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From: European Commission, Apr. 18, 2007
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The internationally respected social science journal Social Science
Information recently focused on coastal communities and marine
ecosystems issues, drawing heavily on the research coming from the
FP6 project ECOST.

ECOST, or 'Ecosystems, Societies, Consilience, Precautionary
principle: Development of an assessment method of the societal cost
for best fishing practices and efficient public policies,' aims to
develop a completely new approach to assess the societal cost of
fishing activities and fishing policies.

ECOST, a project funded through the International Cooperation
Programme under FP6, takes a broad, multidisciplinary approach to
fishing, fisheries policy, and the wider societal impacts both have on
communities that derive a livelihood from costal waters. Members of
the project describe their approach as having a triple theme
encompassing 'marine environment -- fishing activities -- civil
society' and combining life science and social sciences. The findings
of the first phase of ECOST's research, which covers the experience of
fishing communities from Asia and Africa to the Caribbean, was
published in the recent SSI edition.

Ensuring productive fishing for generations to come is one of the main
goals of the ECOST project.

Copyright ECOST

Sidebar: The ECOST Project

ECOST, or 'Ecosystems, Societies, Consilience, Precautionary
principle: Development of an assessment method of the societal cost
for best fishing practices and efficient public policies', aims to
develop a completely new approach to assess the societal cost of
fishing activities and fishing policies. A more realistic assessment
of costs and benefits should enable better decision-making. Members of
the consortium, through their research, hope to be able to equip
economic and political decisions-makers and society at large with the
appropriate tools and methods needed to accurately assess the effects
of fishing activities on ecosystems and repercussions it can have on
society as a whole, as well as to analyse alternatives.

Their work spans three continents representing the unique fishing
conditions found on each -- the coastal upwelling found in West
Africa, the delta ecosystems of Southeast Asia and coral reefs found
in the Caribbean. Researchers have identified several fisheries within
each 'eco-region' to collect the most comprehensive data set possible.
Additionally, they have selected a protected area in each region to
serve as a reference point for comparative analysis.

ECOST researchers expect the ultimate outcomes of their research to
benefit both the public and private spheres of society. By exploring
policy options that support sustainable and ethical management
strategies they expect to help reconciling the need to earn a decent
living with maintaining productive fishing ecosystems for generations
to come. Their ambition is to help reduce the vulnerability of coastal
fishing communities.

At international or global level, they expect their work to provide
invaluable input into national and international governance and
regulation of ocean and costal resources. Once effective, sustainable
policy can be agreed upon, resulting in increased resource
availability, poverty alleviation and external debt reduction for at-
risk communities.

The consortium interacts closely with another EU-funded International
Cooperation project, the Specific Support Action PASARELAS, to enhance
the interface between scientific research and social dialogue
processes. ECOST will host a policy conference in Amsterdam in July,
and expects to finalise their research by the end of 2009.


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From: Norwich (England) Evening News, Apr. 17, 2007
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By David Bale

Campaigners fighting phone mast [cell phone tower] applications today
called for all new proposals to be put on hold after a scientific
study found they caused cancer.

Telecoms company T-Mobile employed German scientist Dr Peter Neitzke
to research potential health risks caused by the equipment but then
ignored his findings, preferring to use reports from different experts
who said masts pose no significant threat.

Dr Neitzke said once T-Mobile realised the likely outcome of his study
it commissioned further research from other scientists which would
contradict his work.

T-Mobile, which has about 17 million UK customers, was today condemned
by campaigners and its actions were branded an attempt by the industry
to keep discussion of potential health risks off the agenda.

Andy Street, who has been campaigning against applications for mobile
phone masts near schools and homes in Norwich, said: "These findings
should have been published immediately rather than being brushed under
the carpet.

"We always thought masts were a risk to health and that the companies
knew more about the dangers than they were letting on. For a phone
company to ignore its own findings is irresponsible. I want the city
council to ban phone mast applications until this report has been
fully published and is available to planners."

His comments were backed by Norwich North MP Ian Gibson, who said:
"The council putting a stop on allowing any more mast applications
sounds like a very sensible, precautionary measure.

"I think it's better to err on the side of caution."

The Evening News is fighting the installation of mobile phone masts
near homes and schools until they are proven safe through our Put
Masts on Hold campaign.

In January 2005, Sir William Stewart, chairman of the National
Radiological Protection Board, published a report calling for a
precautionary approach to masts near homes and schools. An Evening
News investigation that month revealed one in five primary schools in
Norwich was within the threshold experts claim could put children at

We also told how a cluster of cancer victims had been living in the
shadow of a mobile phone mast in St William's Way, Thorpe St Andrew.
At least six people there developed tumours.

Campaigner and city councillor Bert Bremner, who is fighting the
eighth application for a mast in the University ward area in four
years, said: "It's like tobacco companies hiding the dangers of
tobacco. Everything comes out eventually."

Graham Barker, from Lloyd Road, Taverham, has campaigned against masts
for several years. He said: "The whole point of the Evening News
campaign was to put masts on hold until we knew the dangers. Now there
is credible evidence there are risks."

Norwich City Council has called on the government to issue new
guidelines to planning officers. Council leader Steve Morphew said:
"At present planners are not allowed to take account of health
concerns, so until the law changes there's not much else we can do."

David Bradford, chairman of the council's planning committee, added:
"We would be interested in seeing this report, which should be made
widely available."

The report was carried out by the Ecolog Institute, which has been
researching mobile phone technology since 1992 and was paid by T-

Dr Neitzke was working on the study, which was drawn up in 2000 and
updated three years later. It was unknown in the UK until it was
passed on by European campaigners to the Human Ecological Social
Economic Project (HESE) last week. The report stated: "Electromagnetic
fields with frequencies in the mobile telecommunications range play a
role in the development of cancer. This is particularly notable for
tumours of the central nervous system."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "There is no hard evidence that
the health of the public is being affected by the use of mobile phone
technologies. Our advice remains the same. We continue to advise a
precautionary approach to mobile phone use by under-16s."

A T-Mobile spokesman said: "It was the aim of T-Mobile to engage four
different institutes with the same questions to guarantee an
independent and objective discussion."

Mike Dolan, executive director of the Mobile Operators' Association,
said: "The review confirmed that while some scientists had differing
views, overall, 'the scientific studies examined in the risk dialogue
do not support suspicions that mobile telephony has harmful effects on

Copyright 2007 Archant Regional

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From: Hawke's Bay Today (Hastings, New Zealand), Apr. 14, 2007
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The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report,
which featured in a report in Wednesday's Hawke's Bay Today, not
surprisingly contains much more bad news than good for New Zealand. It
will be boomtime for apples in the Bay, but tough times for kiwifruit.
There will be retreating glaciers in the south but hordes of Aussies
will be here to play in snow they can no longer find at home.

There will be an increase in farm production in the short term, but
offset by more droughts and forest fires, along with pestilence and
rising tides that threaten coastal communities. Even dengue fever is
possibile as temperatures soar to tropical levels. It's enough of an
apocalyptic vision to satisfy any "end is nigh" miserabilist.

The latest predictions of doom have been challenged by sceptics,
spearheaded by Augie Auer. Last week he was involved in a war of the
weathermen when he castigated Jim Salinger (lead author of the New
Zealand and Australian chapter in the IPCC report) for attributing the
recent Northland floods to climate change. Dr Auer says the report
lacks rigour and that nothing in it advances the scientific
understanding of climate change.

The conflict about what's happening and who, or what, is to blame will

The original IPCC report says it is "very likely" global warming of
the past few decades is the result of human activity. But the report
also says it is only "likely" current global temperatures are the
highest in the past 1300 years. It then becomes a question of faith
when laypeople (who, by removing the question marks manage to shut
down discussion) can assert such facts when a collaboration by more
than 2000 scientists can only come up with "likely" or "very likely".

Nevertheless, doubt (formalised in the precautionary principle) should
move us in a sensible direction. There is no question that making our
"carbon footprint" smaller will have the happy consequence of being
kind to the environment, even if it cannot be established conclusively
it will change the weather.

In a variant of "Pascal's wager" in arguing the logic of believing in
the hereafter (also known as the umbrella principle -- that it is
better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it)
there is good sense in preparing for the effects of climate change.

The debate is no longer just about the environment. As one commentator
has said, the issue is now about economics, culture, and ideology and
about policy solutions.

The issue, then -- given that agreement about climate change is more
political than scientific -- is whether governments should dictate
solutions or whether they should be left to the markets.

A recent poll showed most New Zealanders were aware of the potential
harm of global warning but were sick of the doom-laden predictions.
They want to hear the answers. And those answers have to go way beyond
using low-energy lightbulbs and avoiding use of the dishwasher -- or
just sitting at home worrying in the dark and cold.

For those solutions we need to embrace the possibilities in the powers
of human invention. Rather than expend effort and money fruitlessly
pushing back the sun, we need to strike out and find ways to make the
most of what nature (with, perhaps, our help) deals us.

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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.

  Rachel's Precaution Reporter is published as often as necessary to
  provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

  As you come across stories that illustrate the precautionary 
  principle -- or the need for the precautionary principle -- 
  please Email them to us at rpr@rachel.org.

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