Rachel's Precaution Reporter #109

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2007........Printer-friendly version
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Featured stories in this issue...

Why the U.S. No Longer Sets Product Standards for the World
  According to the Economist magazine, Europe has surpassed the U.S.
  in setting product standards for the world because Europe has embraced
  the precautionary principle, while the U.S. remains wedded to cost-
  benefit analysis. In the U.S., chemicals and corporations are assumed
  innocent until harm can be proven; not so in Europe.
Fox News Would Introduce Precaution into the Presidential Race
  A libertarian says he would ask all the presidential candidates,
  "What's your philosophical approach to risk assessment and the
  precautionary principle? Do you think government should ban products,
  treatments, and procedures until they're proven safe, or permit them
  until they show signs of being unsafe?"
Additives: Food for Thought
  "There is good reason to think that certain additives create harm
  well beyond hyperactivity in children -- they may also play an
  important role in disease and mental illness in adults.... We must
  demand that our government adopts the precautionary principle."
Many Questions, Few Answers About Artificial Turf
  In Connecticut, the Attorney General is taking a precautionary
  approach to artificial turf for children's playgrounds and athletic
School District Mulls Plans for Ex-campground
  School officials want to use some of the 15 acres to construct a
  kindergarten annex building. Concerns have been raised about the
  proximity of the site to the former Ciba-Geigy Superfund site. "We
  believe in the precautionary principle: better to look for a better
  site," says Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Chapter of the
  Sierra Club.


From: The Economist (London, UK), Sept. 20, 2007
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How the European Union is becoming the world's chief regulator

A victory for consumers and the free market. That was how the European
Commission presented this week's ruling by European judges in favour
of its multi-million euro fine on Microsoft for bullying competitors.
American observers had qualms. Would a French company have been
pursued with such vigour? Explain again why a squabble among American
high-technology firms ends up being decided in Brussels and Luxembourg
(where Euro-judges sit)? One congressman muttered about sneaky
protectionism and "zealous European Commission regulators". It
certainly seemed zealous of the competition commissioner, Neelie
Kroes, to say that a "significant drop" in the software giant's market
share was "what we'd like to see".

More broadly, the ruling confirms that Brussels is becoming the
world's regulatory capital. The European Union's drive to set
standards has many causes -- and a protectionist impulse within some
governments (eg, France's) may be one. But though the EU is a big
market, with almost half a billion consumers, neither size, nor zeal,
nor sneaky protectionism explains why it is usurping America's role as
a source of global standards. A better answer lies in transatlantic
philosophical differences.

The American model turns on cost-benefit analysis, with regulators
weighing the effects of new rules on jobs and growth, as well as
testing the significance of any risks. Companies enjoy a presumption
of innocence for their products: should this prove mistaken,
punishment is provided by the market (and a barrage of lawsuits). The
European model rests more on the "precautionary principle", which
underpins most environmental and health directives. This calls for
pre-emptive action if scientists spot a credible hazard, even before
the level of risk can be measured. Such a principle sparks many
transatlantic disputes: over genetically modified organisms or climate
change, for example.

In Europe corporate innocence is not assumed. Indeed, a vast slab of
EU laws evaluating the safety of tens of thousands of chemicals, known
as REACH, reverses the burden of proof, asking industry to demonstrate
that substances are harmless. Some Eurocrats suggest that the
philosophical gap reflects the American constitutional tradition that
everything is allowed unless it is forbidden, against the Napoleonic
tradition codifying what the state allows and banning everything else.

Yet the more proscriptive European vision may better suit consumer and
industry demands for certainty. If you manufacture globally, it is
simpler to be bound by the toughest regulatory system in your supply
chain. Self-regulation is also a harder sell when it comes to global
trade, which involves trusting a long line of unknown participants
from far-flung places (talk to parents who buy Chinese-made toys).

A gripping new book by an American, Mark Schapiro, captures the
change. When he began his research, he found firms resisting the
notion that the American market would follow EU standards for items
like cosmetics, insisting that their American products were already
safe. But as the book neared completion, firm after firm gave in and
began applying EU standards worldwide, as third countries copied
European rules on things like suspected carcinogens in lipstick. Even
China is leaning to the European approach, one Procter & Gamble
executive tells Mr Schapiro, adding wistfully: "And that's a pretty
big country."

The book records similar American reactions to the spread of EU
directives insisting that cars must be recycled, or banning toxins
such as lead and mercury from electrical gadgets. Obey EU rules or
watch your markets "evaporating", a computer industry lobbyist tells
Mr Schapiro. "We've been hit by a tsunami," says a big wheel from
General Motors. American multinationals that spend money adjusting to
European rules may lose their taste for lighter domestic regulations
that may serve only to offer a competitive advantage to rivals that do
not export. Mr Schapiro is a campaigner for tougher regulation of
American business. Yet you do not have to share his taste for banning
chemicals to agree with his prediction that American industry will
want stricter standards to create a level playing-field at home.

Winning the regulatory race

One American official says flatly that the EU is "winning" the
regulatory race, adding: "And there is a sense that that is their
precise intent." He cites a speech by the trade commissioner, Peter
Mandelson, claiming that the export of "our rules and standards around
the world" was one source of European power. Noting that EU
regulations are often written with the help of European incumbents,
the official also claims that precaution can cloak "plain old-
fashioned protectionism in disguise".

Europe had no idea the rest of the world was going to copy its
standards, retorts a Eurocrat sweetly. "It's a very pleasant side-
effect, but we set out to create the legislation we thought that
Europe needed." At all events, America's strategy has changed. Frontal
attempts to block new EU regulations are giving way to efforts to
persuade Brussels to adopt a more American approach to cost-benefit
analysis. That would placate students of rigour, who accuse some
European governments of ignoring scientific data and pandering to
consumer panic (as shown by European campaigns against "Frankenstein

But rigour can quickly look like rigidity when it involves resisting
competition. There is a genuine competition to set global regulatory
standards, as Europe and America have discovered. There are also
rising protectionist pressures. Perhaps zealous EU regulators may be
what jumpy consumers need if they are to keep faith with free trade
and globalisation. Viewed in such a light, even Microsoft's champions
might hope that this week's verdict will help global competition in

Copyright The Economist Newspaper Limited 2007

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From: Fox News, Sept. 24, 2007
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By Radley Balko

As we approach the first round of presidential primaries this January,
here's a list of questions I'd ask candidates from both parties:

-- A recent study found that over half the country now derives part or
all of its income from the federal government. Three of the richest
counties in the country are in the D.C. suburbs, a telling indicator
of just how bloated with taxpayer dollars Washington has become. Do
you think these trends are healthy? Would you agree or disagree that
the federal government is getting too large, too influential, and too

-- The government is made up of people -- flawed people, just as the
private sector is. But when private people make mistakes, the
consequences are limited to them, and perhaps a few people around
them. When a government official makes a mistake, it can affect
millions. Isn't it better to let the American people make as many of
their own decisions as possible? What makes a government bureaucrat
more qualified to make decisions about the average Americans life than
the average American?

-- Name five government agencies that are either superfluous,
anachronistic, ineffective, or otherwise no longer necessary, and that
you would eliminate? To make things interesting, let's take everything
under the Department of Defense off the table, with the acknowledgment
that there's plenty of cutting to be done there, too.

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-- What is your philosophical approach to federalism? What issues do
you feel are best decided at the national level? What issues should be
left to the states? Is there any underlying principle you use in
separating one from the other, or would you make such decisions ad

-- Do you believe the U.S. military should be deployed for

-- The U.S. currently has troops on 6,000 bases spread out over 135
countries. Do you believe this is a good or bad thing? If bad, from
what countries would you remove U.S. troops?

-- Do you think an atheist could be president? Do you think an atheist
should be? Assuming you generally agreed with an atheist on more
issues than the alternative candidates in a given election, would you
vote for one?

-- Name five things you think are none of the federal government's

-- What is your view of the pardon power and executive clemency?
it be used frequently? Should it be use to show mercy and forgiveness
or to correct injustices that slip through the cracks? Neither? Both?

-- Do you think the criminal justice system is adequate in its present
form? Do our criminal courts achieve the just outcome in an acceptable
percentage of cases?

-- When the two are in conflict, do you believe a politician is
obligated to vote for his own principles and values, or for the will
of the people?

-- Is there any type of speech you believe should be criminalized?

-- Do you promise not to claim for yourself any of the executive
you've criticized the Bush administration for claiming?

-- Do you think it's appropriate that the minority party in the senate
can filibuster the majority? Would your position change if your party
was in the minority?

-- What is your position on Kelo vs. New London? Under what
circumstances would it be appropriate for a government to seize land
from one private party and give it to another?

-- If elected, will you fire all of the U.S. attorneys appointed by
President Bush?

-- What federal crimes will you instruct the Justice Department to
a priority during your administration?

-- Do you think a journalist should ever be tried for treason for
public classified information?

-- America by far and away has the highest prison population in the
world. Does this concern you? Are there any federal crimes you feel
should be repealed from the books, or devolved to the states?

-- Should violations of regulatory law be criminalized? That is,
people go to jail for violating EPA, OSHA, or other regulations? Or
should they merely be fined?

-- What's your philosophical approach to risk assessment and the
precautionary principle? Do you think government should ban products,
treatments, and procedures until they're proven safe, or permit them
until they show signs of being unsafe?

-- Do you think it's a legitimate function of government to protect
people from making bad decisions or prevent them from developing bad
habits? Even if those habit or decisions don't directly affect anyone
else? How far should the government go in preventing bad habits and
bad decisions? In other words, should the government's role be merely
advisory, or should it criminalize things like gambling, pornography,
drug use, or trans fats?

-- Should members of Congress be required to follow all of the laws
they pass?

-- Should members be required to read each bill before voting on it?

-- Should federal law supercede the will of the people in a given
when it comes to medical marijuana? Assisted suicide? How about the
regulation of prescription painkillers?

-- Would you support a requirement that each law be limited in scope
subject, so members wouldn't be required to cast a single yes-or-no
vote on bills that have multiple amendments covering a variety of

-- Would you support a sunset provision requiring Congress to revisit
and re-pass each law after five years?

-- Do think presidents should be term limited? What about members of
Congress? If you didn't give the same answer to each question, what's
the difference?

Radley Balko is a senior editor with Reason magazine. He publishes
the weblog, TheAgitator.com.

Copyright 2007 FOX News Network, LLC.

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From: SocialistWorkerOnline (London, UK), Sept. 29, 2007
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The latest scare over food additives highlights the dangers of
producing food in the free market, writes Malcolm Povey

By Malcolm Povey

The fact that many food additives are very harmful has been public
knowledge for over 30 years. Two decades ago the disclosure that the
red dye ponceau 4R caused allergic reactions such as skin rashes and
hyperactivity led to its removal from brands such as Ribena and

But the food industry fought back, and this month's scare over food
additives is only one of many -- as these dangerous chemicals have
remained legal for use in food.

This was described by the Guardian as "an embarrassment" to the Food
Standards Agency (FSA), which approved the use of the following
chemicals, well known for their adverse effects on many children:
sunset yellow (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122),
allura red (E129), tartrazine (E102) ponceau 4R (E124), and sodium
benzoate (E211).

All but sodium benzoate, an antibacterial preservative, are colours
with natural replacements available. The purity of the chemicals
involved is controlled for industrial use but not for their use in

The issue now is connected with the scapegoating of young people --
FSA's response to the University of Southampton report which was the
basis for the recent newspaper scares was called "Hyperactivity And
Colours: Advice To Parents".

The FSA has not suggested that the additives in question should be
banned. They say that additives are needed in food production and that
the evidence is contradictory.

It is not true that all additives are "necessary". Food additives such
as bright colours are added to make food visually attractive in a
competitive market. Preservatives are added because food is
transported over long distances and stored for a long time, thus
cheapening manufacture and sales costs and increasing profits.

The use of additives is much more likely in foods consumed by the poor
than by the wealthy who can afford to pay for "healthy foods".

Control by the food industry over ingredients is as complete now as it
was two centuries ago in the days of the Factory Acts. In fact, the
basic regulatory system over the environment of working class people
has not changed substantially since the 19th century.

The bosses introduced the Factory Act and Public Health Act when they
realised that unregulated capitalism was destroying the environment to
such a degree that workers were dying faster than they were being

While a few more liberal bosses had an enlightened concern for the
health of their workforce, for most it was simply a question of a fear
of rising wages due to scarce labour.

Perhaps today we are seeing the start of a similar process, as modern
capitalism has transformed our environment again. By providing a ready
source of processed food and automating working lives it has created a
very unhealthy environment.

Diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease have become the big

There is good reason to think that certain additives create harm well
beyond hyperactivity in children -- they may also play an important
role in disease and mental illness in adults.

It is true that some additives are required for food production.

Nonetheless, we must demand that our government adopts the
precautionary principle.

Where there is evidence for widespread ill effects, the ingredient
should be banned until it is shown to be safe through government
funded scientific investigation independent of the food companies.

There needs to be independent, provision of health and nutritional
advice available to the public so that informed decisions can be made.

This is important as food labelling is an area where regulation tends
to protect the producer from the consumer. By no means must all
ingredients be listed and under some circumstances they need not be
listed at all.

For example, butter can be dyed yellow by including yellow dye in
cattle feed, and it does not have to be included on the label, which
will indicate "pure" butter.

States regulate the food industry in the interests of capitalism, not
in the interests of workers. But even these attempts at regulation are
negated by the global market and its anarchic nature.

So the ponceau 4R, carmosine and tartrazine that were removed from
children's foods in the 1980s gradually found their way back in again.

The only way to ensure the provision of healthy food and a safe
environment in the long term is for production to be controlled
through bottom-up democratic planning.

In the meantime, we must demand that the additives implicated by the
University of Southampton study be banned for use in foods.

Malcolm Povey is professor of food physics at the University of Leeds

Copyright Copyright Socialist Worker

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From: Stamford (Ct.) Advocate, Sept. 17, 2007
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By the Associated Press

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) Some critics of modern technology that is being
used to replace natural grass with synthetic turf on athletic fields
around Connecticut are calling for a moratorium until more scientific
study is done.

Some people believe there are potential environmental and health risks
because the material used as cushioning in the fields -- ground-up
rubber tires -- may release harmful chemicals.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has called for $200,000 in state
funding for further research after the Connecticut Agricultural
Experiment Station in New Haven released results of a study of the
materials, known as tire crumbs.

The study, which was funded with a $2,000 grant by New Haven-based
Environment and Human Health Inc., found that under laboratory
conditions, the crumbs released at least four compounds under slightly
elevated temperatures that can irritate eyes, skin and mucous

However, the lead author of the study says the work shows that
additional studies are needed, since their testing was done in the
lab, not out in the field.

"What we feel this work suggests is additional studies need to be done
at actual installed fields," Mary Jane Mattina said. There are a lot
of these fields being installed and the answers to these questions
aren't out there."

Nancy Alderman, Environment and Human Health's president, said the
results of the Connecticut study show enough information to halt the
installation of new fields, at least until more work is done.

Rick Doyle, president of the Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group
based in Atlanta, cited various studies, including one by FIFA, the
international governing body for soccer, that have not found harmful
health effects from the fields.

"If Connecticut feels it needs to look at it another time, it's up to
them," Doyle said.

Blumenthal, who advocates further study, said there should not be a
rush to stop using or installing the fields.

"I can understand the confusion and doubt because we don't have all of
the answers," Blumenthal said. "I'm simply trying to be completely
honest, as a non-scientist and a non-technician, in digesting what
I've read and heard from experts, which is that there are several
points of view."

Copyright 2007, The Associated Press

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From: Asbury Park Press, Sept. 21, 2007
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Some concerned about Ciba site

By Lauren O. Kidd, Toms River Bureau

TOMS RIVER -- What do a pumpkin patch, a cross-country track practice
ground and a maritime academy have in common?

Those are just three of the ways that Toms River Regional school
district officials said they would consider utilizing a 58-acre former
campground if the district's plan to purchase that land is successful.

The land offers opportunities that "are endless, and really exciting
to talk about," Michael S. Citta, assistant superintendent of Toms
River schools, told a group of about 20 people who toured the site
Thursday evening. Most of the tour group were members of the
district's Planning and Development Committee.

The district is proposing to purchase the site, the former Albocondo
Campground located off Route 571, for $7.75 million if voters approve
funding in a referendum that has not yet been scheduled.

School officials want to utilize some of the roughly 15 acres that are
"buildable" to construct a kindergarten annex building, according to
Michael J. Ritacco, superintendent of schools. That new building is
needed to provide full-day kindergarten to Toms River's youngest
students by 2009, he has said.

"It is a great idea for working moms and a good concept," David
Plotnick said of the full-day kindergarten initiative after seeing the
"upland" portion of the property, currently an open field along 571,
that the school would be built on.

But Plotnick, president of the Lake Ridge Homeowners Association, said
"seniors don't want tax increases," and he attended the tour so he
could present more information on the project to members of the senior
community. Plotnick said his comments were his own opinion, and not
the opinion of the Lake Ridge community.

Concerns have been raised about the proximity of the site to the
former Ciba-Geigy Superfund site. "We believe in the precautionary
principle: better to look for a better site," Jeff Tittel, director of
the New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club, said in an interview

"Ciba Geigy is a very complex site with a lot of contamination,"
Tittel said.

During the tour, Citta used a map of the land to illustrate where the
former campground is in relation to the former Superfund site.

The natural flow of water and topography is northwest to southeast,
Citta said, and the land the school district wants to purchase is
located northwest of the Ciba-Geigy site.

"To think your school district would want to put your kids in harm's
way is quite offensive and certainly not going to happen," Citta said.

The remaining roughly 45 acres, which border the Toms River and
include two lakes and various buildings like cabins and bathrooms, is
the area that district officials are brainstorming about.

"It is not like just buying woods," Ritacco said. The site has utility
hookups already installed, like water, electric and sewer, he said.

Norma Spice, the district's science supervisor, said the land is a
prime spot for science students to explore research and field
opportunities. "I see almost unlimited opportunities for science
education out here," she said.

"I am very impressed with it," Toni-Ann Gannon, whose child attends
Cedar Grove Elementary School, said of the land, which she called

"I would like to see it used all year round," she said, adding that it
could be used for summer programs.

Lauren O. Kidd: (732) 557-5737 or lkidd@app.com

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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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  provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.

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