Environmental Research Foundation  [Printer-friendly version]
November 12, 2008

RACHEL'S PRECAUTION REPORTER TABLE OF CONTENTS (070905-081112)

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #168 (November 12, 2008):

RPR #168: #1: Town of Lyndhurst, N.J. Adopts the Precautionary Principle

The town of Lyndhurst, N.J. yesterday adopted a precautionary principle ordinance to guide municipal policy. Lyndhurst is only the second municipality in the U.S. to adopt precaution as an overarching guide to municipal policy, and the first on the East Coast to do so.

RPR #168: #2: Smoking Ban Tied To a Gain in Lives

For 150 years, public health officials have known that precautionary (preventive) action pays off. However, it's often hard to calculate the benefits because you've got to quantify something that gets prevented and thus never happens. Bans on smoking in bars and restaurants have created an opportunity to show how precaution pays.

RPR #168: #3: College Youth Will Represent U.S. at U.N. Conference on Climate Change

A college senior who completed an internship advocating for the precautionary principle will be attending the crucial climate meeting in Poznan, Poland in December. "As a team, we hope to build momentum for a strong international agreement on climate change, one which includes the United States," says Eli Allen of Wesleyan University.

RPR #168: #4: Reassessing the Dangers of Bisphenol-A in Plastics

"There is enough evidence today for the FDA [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to take the precaution and to certainly get BPA [bisphenol-A] out of infant products," says Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst at Consumers Union. "Even more, consumers should not be ingesting this substance while the science is being figured out."

RPR #168: #5: Dow Contests Pesticide Ban

Pesticide bans are spreading in Canada -- especially precautionary bans on the use of pesticides on lawns for strictly cosmetic purposes. Now the pesticide industry has begun a counterattack, using the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a battering ram against the precautionary principle.

RPR #168: #6: European Agency Criticizes French Ban on Genetically Modified Corn

Chalk up another victory over precaution by Monsanto, the giant U.S. biotech corporation. Europe's top food safety agency has ruled that France's precautionary ban on Monsanto's genetically modified corn, MON 810, was unjustified.

RPR #168: #7: What the Public Doesn't Get About Climate Change

We have a steady drumbeat of new scientific evidence of global warming's severity but little in the way of real precautionary action. Why? Because "There is a profound and fundamental misconception about climate." Even graduate students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) don't get it.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #167 (November 5, 2008):

RPR #167: #1: Protecting Ourselves from Innovation

"While consumers love innovative products, we also need and deserve consumer protection provided by the government. There is a dark side to innovation, and we have seen it in the past few years. This is why a stronger regulatory body that borrows the European precautionary principle is needed."

RPR #167: #2: The Safety Gap

The precautionary principle is supposed to guide the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates drug safety. But precautionary action implies a capacity to act. In reality our drugs increasingly come from China and no one wants to talk much about the difficulty of regulating factories across several times zones, 6,000 miles, and a vast linguistic and cultural divide: "This is a fundamentally broken agency."

RPR #167: #3: Julie Samuels, Eco-justice Activist and Precaution Advocate

For those of us still struggling with what it means to be "green" and what exactly is meant by "sustainable," Julie Samuels offers this advice: "Follow the precautionary principle; first do no harm. Work with nature, not against it. A truly green lifestyle starts with asking all the right questions: Who made it? Were they safe and fairly paid while they worked? Is it made of materials that are not toxic or have caused pollution and waste in its manufacture? Are the materials reusable or at least recyclable?"

RPR #167: #4: Staking a Claim: The Battle for Bristol Bay

For environmental scientists like Margaret Williams, current knowledge about the ecosystem leaves much to be desired. "The precautionary principle should be the guiding principle," she says. "There's a lot we don't know about Bristol Bay, [or] about the North Pacific right whale. To move in and harm these species would be a huge mistake and potentially cause irreversible damage."

RPR #167: #5: Conflicting Studies Send Mixed Signals To Cell Phone Users

Around the world, scientists and citizens are debating the safety of cell phones. Do they cause brain cancer? Until the debate is resolved, which could take decades, do we just assume they're safe or do we take a precautionary approach?

RPR #167: #6: An Interview with Canadian Environmental Leader David Suzuki

What makes us fool ourselves that things have never been better? Why do we fail to live within the constraints that our planet and biology have set for us, when future generations will pay the price?

RPR #167: #7: What Politicians Dare Not Say

Protecting the future (a precautionary goal) means we must come to grips with an economic system that "must grow continuously or face an unpalatable collapse. With the environmental situation reaching [a] crisis point it is time to stop pretending that mindlessly chasing economic growth is compatible with sustainability."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #166 (October 29, 2008):

RPR #166: #1: Why Cancer's Gaining on Us

Is there definitive evidence that industrial chemicals cause breast cancer? Have they been sufficiently studied? Well, no. We need to know more about the timing, duration, and patterns of exposure, which may be as important as dosage. But shouldn't we do everything possible to reduce exposure to the suspected chemicals? Shouldn't we take precautionary measures, as we continue and deepen the research?

RPR #166: #2: Is It Safe To Bring An Alien Species of Oyster in Chesapeake Bay?

"Chesapeake Bay Foundation believes a public policy decision of this magnitude must be based on the Precautionary Principle. Before proceeding with an introduction, it must be known -- within reasonable bounds of certainty -- that it will not pose new problems."

RPR #166: #3: Precaution Prevents Import of Bumblebees into Australia

"While I appreciate the potential benefits of improved pollination for the hydroponic industry, the national environmental legislation requires me to adopt a precautionary approach to any proposal to introduce a new species into Australia." -- Peter Garrett, Environment Minister of Australia

RPR #166: #4: Avoid the Dangers of Parabens in Skin Care Products

If a product "might" cause "severe or irreversible harm" to consumers, it should be removed from the market or carefully regulated. According to the precautionary principle, it is not necessary to "prove" the dangers beyond a shadow of a doubt.

RPR #166: #5: Stop the Henderson Center Cell Tower!

In the Henderson Center neighborhood of Eureka, California, citizens are opposing a cell phone tower using precautionary arguments.

RPR #166: #6: Economic Transformation -- a Preliminary Programme

Here is a wide-ranging statement, laying out some new directions for social and economic policies, which has been widely circulated on the web. It embraces the precautionary principle, at least for environmental policy.

RPR #166: #7: In Canada, a Candidate for Local Office Embraces Precaution

On the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island in Canada, a candidate for local government Council has published a platform that includes "Make the Precautionary Principle the first measure and bottom line of everything we do."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #165 (October 22, 2008):

RPR #165: #1: Dow May Challenge Precautionary Bans on Pesticides in Canada

Dow AgroSciences is considering using the North American free-trade agreement (NAFTA) to seek compensation from Canada's federal government because two Canadian provinces and many cities have banned the cosmetic use of pesticides based on the precautionary public- health approach of minimizing exposures to toxic chemicals.

RPR #165: #2: Reining in the Chemical Industry

Many major hazards from chemical plants are avoidable through simple, inexpensive regulations requiring companies to replace dangerous chemicals with relatively harmless agents that serve the same functions, such as liquid bleach, ozone and ultraviolet light.

RPR #165: #3: Precaution for Workers in the Metalworking Trades

How to protect worker health while promoting industrial progress? One answer is to adopt the precautionary principle: when there is evidence harm may occur, take precautions now. Don't wait for definitive scientific proof of cause and effect.

RPR #165: #4: Editorial: Mass Medication

"... a wise application of precautionary principles should prompt a reluctance to add additional chemicals to water supplies unless they are really needed, and only if known side-effects are tiny."

RPR #165: #5: African Scientists Urge Precaution for Endangered Flamingoes

Ornithologists in Africa are urging adoption of the precautionary principle for all development that could affect Lake Natron, home to unique, endangered Lesser Flamingoes.

RPR #165: #6: Bisphenol-A Baby Bottle Ban in Canada Only the First Needed Step

"The ban on baby bottles was announced 17 October 2008, which is the same day that Health and Environment Canada released the final screening assessment of BPA, which warns that the foetus and infants 'are more sensitive to BPA.' Because of that danger, it urges regulators to 'apply a precautionary approach...'"

RPR #165: #7: The New Asbestos Science Scare

Not everyone applauded Canada's ban on toxic BPA in baby bottles: "Now that we know how [The Conservative Party of Canada] treated science in the baby bottle case -- never mind what research shows, this is politics and the precautionary principle rules -- it will be interesting to see how they handle another hot issue, asbestos."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #164 (October 15, 2008):

RPR #164: #1: The Wages of Denial

"Can anyone, surveying this mess, now doubt the value of the precautionary principle?"

RPR #164: #2: Alaska Pollock Fishery Near Collapse -- Greenpeace

"Economic pressures to keep on fishing at such high levels have overwhelmed common sense," said Jeremy Jackson at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Jackson recommended a "far more precautionary, ecosystem-based approach" to fisheries management.

RPR #164: #3: Green Chemistry: Science and Politics of Change

In this important early statement, we learn that green chemistry seeks to minimize risk by minimizing hazard. It emphasizes the elimination of by-products or ensures that they are benign. Such design reduces the ability to manifest hazard (and therefore risk), providing inherent safety from accidents or acts of terrorism.

RPR #164: #4: Coca-Cola Is Accused of Ignoring Precaution in India

Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited (HCBPL) will be asked to pay restitution for past, present and future damages, just the way Union Carbide was asked to in the Bhopal tragedy.

RPR #164: #5: Celtic Revolt Against British Governnment Over GM Crops

Phil Woolas, an environment minister, said opponents [of genetically modified crops] now had a year to prove their case. In an apparent reversal of the "precautionary principle" that is supposed to guide government policy, he said: "If you are opposed to GM it is now up to you to provide the evidence that there is harm. Ten years ago it was the other way round."

RPR #164: #6: Expert: Even Tiny Lead Levels Are Bad

"There is no safe level of lead in the blood in terms of effects on the brain," Hryhorczuk said. "Any amount of lead has the potential to affect neurobehavioral performance."

RPR #164: #7: Three Attorney Generals Seek Voluntary Restrictions on Chemical Bpa

Attorneys general from 3 states have asked baby product manufacturers to avoid using the chemical BPA, to eliminate the possibility of harm.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #163 (October 8, 2008):

RPR #163: #1: This Toxic Life: Our World Is Awash with Petro-chemicals

Sweden has been one of the main countries pushing the 'precautionary principle,' a common-sense notion which the chemical industry, driven by a blinkered concern with profits and growth, has fought tooth and nail. The concept is simple: if a chemical looks like it may cause problems, let's think twice about using it.

RPR #163: #2: Robot Soldiers V. Autonomous Weapons: Why It Matters

As I see it, a precautionary principle against autonomous weapons depends quite a great deal on whether we accept the construction of autonomous weapons as "robot soldiers" or whether they remain conceptualized as merely a category of "weapon."

RPR #163: #3: Dealing with Uncertainty

In 1996, economist Robert Costanza proposed a way to protect society against new technologies that might cause major harm -- like new chemicals or biotechnology or nanotechnology (among others).

RPR #163: #4: Interpreting the Precautionary Principle

This 1994 essay argues that there are six separate ideas wrapped up in the precautionary principle.

RPR #163: #5: Precautionary Principle Enters Presidential Politics

Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney has endorsed the precautionary principle.

RPR #163: #6: European Union Pushes for All Batteries To Be Replaceable

The European Union (EU) has taken the lead in pushing for precautionary regulations that impact all companies that sell their products in Europe. Now the EU is planning to require that all batteries in consumer products be removable and replaceable.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #162 (October 1, 2008):

RPR #162: #1: California Launches Broad Effort To Control Hazardous Chemicals

"State regulators are to inventory the most dangerous, widespread chemicals first and control them at the manufacturing stage, before they are handled in workplaces, incorporated into products or allowed to escape into air and water."

RPR #162: #2: European Chemical Clampdown Reaches Across Atlantic

"Many chemicals that the E.U. has already identified as dangerous and will eventually regulate are produced in the U.S. by many different companies at many different sites," says biochemist Richard Denison of Environmental Defense Fund, author of the new report 'Across the Pond: Assessing REACH's First Big Impact on U.S. Companies and Chemicals.'"

RPR #162: #3: Design Through the 12 Principles of Green Engineering

The 12 Principles of Green Engineering provide a framework for scientists and engineers to engage in when designing new materials, products, processes, and systems that are benign to human health and the environment.

RPR #162: #4: Genetically Modified Foods -- Sense and Sensibility

Has the United Kingdom's Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs adopted the Caution-to-the-wind Principle?

RPR #162: #5: The WATER Institute

"Asserting that it is 'better to be safe than thirsty,' the WATER Institute advocates the use of the Precautionary Principle in decisions about water-use policy. The burden of proof must be on water users to show that their proposed use of our common water can be sustained without damage to the hydrologic cycle."

RPR #162: #6: Environmental Purchasing Policy for Minneapolis

"I attempted to strengthen this action in two small but important ways. First, because it's not practical to include every single thing the City buys or may ever buy in a policy like this, I moved to add text that would cover goods and services not enumerated in the policy. The text stated that the City will use the precautionary principle and err on the side of protecting human health and the environment when making decisions about products not listed in the policy."

RPR #162: #7: Scottish Government Unequivocally Opposed To GM Crops

The U.K. Governnment is now pushing for GM [genetically modified] crop development again. Phil Woolas, Environment Minister, is going for the strong arm tactics which seem to be becoming the hallmark of this beleaguered government. He has reversed the previous "precautionary principle" meant to guide Government policy and said: "If you are opposed to GM it is now up to you to provide the evidence that there is harm."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #161 (September 24, 2008):

RPR #161: #1: Ozone Hole, Again

"Although the scientific evidence wasn't especially strong 20 years ago, 24 nations headed by Argentina, the United States and Canada took a precautionary approach and signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. That foresight prevented the further destruction of the ozone layer...."

RPR #161: #2: The Dakar Statement on Manufactured Nanomaterials

The Dakar Statement on nanotechnology and manufactured nanomaterials was adopted last week by seventy governments, 12 intergovernmental organizations, and 39 nongovernmental organizations participating in Forum VI of the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS) in Dakar, Senegal.

RPR #161: #3: Fire Fighters Union Opposes Cell Towers on Fire Houses

"Whereas, firefighters are the protectors of people and property and should be protected under the Precautionary Principle of Science and therefore, unless radiation is proven safe and harmless, cellular antennas should not be placed on or near fire stations...."

RPR #161: #4: Why Doesn't Greece Like Carbon Capture?

"What about the precautionary principle?" asks Kyriakos Psychas. "Environmentally safe application needs time and patience."

RPR #161: #5: Chemical Industry To Fight New Proposal

"The push for chemical reform comes after this summer's revamping of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Now, health advocates hope that success, which introduced the so-called precautionary principle into U.S. chemical regulation, will pave the way for an even more far- reaching overhaul next year."

RPR #161: #6: Town Planning To Go Bag-free

Reports estimate more than 113 billion plastic bags are used each year. They've become an important part of retailer branding, but are used just long enough to move goods from purchase to their final destination. After the bags have been discarded, they remain in the environment for thousands of years. And when they break down, they only break down into smaller pieces of plastic.

RPR #161: #7: Green, Baby, Green

"As an environmental reporter, I knew a little too much for comfort when I started planning for our son. But I also knew that you can't avoid all possible dangers; but you can be informed and make good choices. Consumer advocates often invoke a concept called the precautionary principle: basically, if you don't know how something might harm someone, err on the side of caution."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #160 (September 17, 2008):

RPR #160: #1: The International Convention for the Evaluation of New Technologies

"ICENT is designed to provide an early warning/early listening system capable of monitoring any significant new technology."

RPR #160: #2: Editorial: Lack of Absolute Certainty Shouldn't Stop Climate Action

"Imagine you are examined by 100 doctors. Ninety-nine of them agree that you are heading for a heart attack and recommend a course of action to reduce your risk, including quitting smoking, exercising more and lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol. One doctor, however, says he can't conclusively say there's a problem. Who would you listen to?... The same goes for global warming."

RPR #160: #3: Which Is the Most Toxic of Them All?

"Among Indian companies, the score is good in terms of precautionary principle, chemical management and management of additional substances," said Abhishek Pratap, a Greenpeace India Toxic campaigner.

RPR #160: #4: Major British Newspaper Advocates Precaution for Financial Markets

"It is time to shift to a precautionary principle so that new financial products are licensed only when they have been shown to be safe. Drugs have long been subject to licensing, and so too should derivatives."

RPR #160: #5: Gallagher Review Means 'Fundamental' Change for Biofuels

"Biodiesel is also leading to direct and indirect changes in land use, the report suggested, with increased production 'almost certainly' leading to increased cultivation of palm oil in cleared rainforest areas. It said: 'The environmental effects of any resultant rainforest clearance are so dramatic that, even with some uncertainty as to the scale of the effect, the precautionary principle must be invoked.'"

RPR #160: #6: Review of Thomas L. Friedman's New Book, 'Hot, Flat and Crowded'

"Also, do we ever consider that such a Jacobin revolution might prove more dangerous than 'business-as-usual' or traditional adaptation? Should we not apply the precautionary principle to Friedman's fantasies?"

RPR #160: #7: Schools and Sustainability

"Based on the Precautionary Principle, green schools adopt the four pillars of transforming their institutions into green and healthy learning centers, as follows..."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #159 (September 10, 2008):

RPR #159: #1: We Must Be Wary of Scientific Research

"International law needs to wake up to the scientific challenges of the 21st century. Scientists are now dealing with forces so potentially destructive they cannot be allowed to exercise their discretion.... Nobody would consider it alarmist to advocate caution in dealing with nuclear weapons. It makes equal sense to be wary of other forces with even greater destructive potential."

RPR #159: #2: Zero Waste: Definition and Business Principles

"We apply the precautionary principle before introducing new products and processes, to avoid products and practices that are wasteful or toxic."

RPR #159: #3: Editorial: That Plastic Baby Bottle

"What do you do when one arm of the government says everything is O.K. and another tells you to watch out?... The answer is a truism in every family rulebook -- when in doubt, especially when it comes to children, err on the side of caution. That means it is a good idea to keep the young away from bisphenol-A, or BPA." -- Editors, N.Y. Times

RPR #159: #4: Olive Ridley Troubles

While creating something for children to read, for the future to see, one realizes -- with great shame -- what it is that we are doing to the world. How foolishly we are squandering its few remaining treasures, instead of proudly protecting them.

RPR #159: #5: The Precautionary Principle from An Australian Perspective

Where the possibility exists of serious or irreversible harm, lack of scientific certainty should not preclude cautious action by decision-makers to prevent such harm. Management needs to anticipate the possibility of ecological damage, rather than react to it as it occurs. -- Jon Nevill 2004

RPR #159: #6: Is Nuclear Fusion the Answer To Our Energy Needs?

"The reasoning behind any 'blue-sky' exploration smacks against the 'precautionary principle,' an idea dominating contemporary political discourse.... In a risk-averse society, playing with an expensive toy full of radioactive plasma may sound like an abomination. And, yet, we humans have managed to survive thus far by taking risks, by going out there and hoping to discover something new."

RPR #159: #7: Seven Reasons Why Kids Should Drink Organic Milk

"Parents need to practice the precautionary principle when it comes to the foods they feed their families," advised Greene. "This is especially true when it comes to eating higher on the food chain where pesticides and other toxins are stored in fatty tissue."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #158 (September 3, 2008):

RPR #158: #1: Europeans Urged by Nordic Nations To Protect Arctic

The Nordic nations have called upon the European Union to embrace a new role as guardian of the Arctic.

RPR #158: #2: Climate Action: 'As Fast As Humanly Possible'

"James Hansen and seven fellow scientists have circulated a paper making the precautionary case for global cooling and a swift return to 325 ppm atmospheric carbon. The response, according to former US Greenpeace deputy director Ken Ward, has been 'a deafening silence' from most climate lobby groups."

RPR #158: #3: Footprints in the Air

"And I believe in the precautionary principle that says that even if we are uncertain about it, we must act on the assumption that global warming is taking place and that we are to blame. But I do believe that this important agenda must not be shot through with moral posturing and calls to return to a previous age."

RPR #158: #4: Genetic Data Withdrawn amid Privacy Concerns

"NIH [National Institutes of Health] did the right thing in applying the precautionary principle," says Kathy Hudson, director of the Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC.

RPR #158: #5: Nature Superior To Man? What Green Twaddle

"The precautionary principle, meanwhile -- that we should be careful about changes that may get out of hand -- is simply a matter of prudence, requiring no doctrine for its justification."

RPR #158: #6: The Precautionary Principle and Approach

The Joint Nature Conservation Committee, an advisory body to the government of the United Kingdom, writes about the role of the precautionary principle in fisheries management.

RPR #158: #7: Dystopia Now! How Bad Does It Have To Get?

"Full implementation of the Precautionary Principle is just a start of the epic project which humanity must commence with," says an anonymous blogger.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #157 (August 27, 2008):

RPR #157: #1: 1.5 Million Hits and Youtube

"The Torah clearly requires us to take whatever action we can to avert the threat of climate change. This is so, even if there is still a small measure of doubt about the science. Given the immense risks and dangers of delay, the precautionary principle derived from the mitzvah to build a parapet requires that we take action now."

RPR #157: #2: Technological Fundamentalism

"The lesson we should learn from the early Industrial Revolution is that the Luddites were correct -- by overvaluing machines we can easily undervalue people and the non-human living world."

RPR #157: #3: Honda Stays True To Efficient Driving

Precaution pays off for Honda: Mr. Knight, the head of Honda engineering in North America, recalled how Honda adopted an internal motto -- "Blue skies for our children" -- as a guideline for future vehicle development.

RPR #157: #4: 5 Green Sleeper Issues in the 2008 Election

"What should the next presidential administration do? Making the precautionary principle a keystone of its approach to environmental health and safety would be a first important step in the right direction."

RPR #157: #5: GMOs Have Failed Test of Sustainability and Social Viability

"It is unscientific, illogical and irresponsible for the Environmental Minister Mr Woolas to say that Prince Charles must provide 'proof' that a disaster has happened. I would imagine that he is aware of the environmental principle on which the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change rest. It is called the Precautionary Principle."

RPR #157: #6: Chemicals a Concern

In 1991, a small community named Hudson in Quebec became the first municipality to enact a ban on the use of pesticides for cosmetic (strictly aesthetic) purposes. They were taken to court by two chemical companies but in 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the decision that the municipality had a right to have a complete ban.

RPR #157: #7: Lafarge Decision Alarms Industry

"The Ontario Ministry of the Environment (MOE) is considering how it can incorporate an ecosystem approach, the consideration of cumulative effects and the precautionary principle into its approval process."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #156 (August 20, 2008):

RPR #156: #1: Fluoride Lowers IQ, Studies Show

"The Precautionary Principle dictates that fluoride, now shown to alter the brain at low levels, should cease being added to water supplies."

RPR #156: #2: Sunburn Increases Risk of Nanoparticle Skin Penetration

With the precautionary principle, the basic idea is that manufacturers should have to prove to regulators that their products are not harmful before the products are sold

RPR #156: #3: Shellfish Harvesting Suspended in Delaware Bay

"It's tough to tell how long this [suspension] could last," he added. "It could go bigger, or it could end in a week. The state likes to err on the side of caution."

RPR #156: #4: Shark Numbers Worry Over Fin Exports

"There was a whole change right through the ecosystem and the scallop fishery collapsed because with the loss of the sharks the rays increased dramatically and they ate all the scallops and so the fishery collapsed because of the fishery for sharks, so you lost two fisheries."

RPR #156: #5: Managing Humans To Foster Nature's Resilience

The precautionary principle or "forecaring" is a second element of a standard of human behavior that supports the resilience of natural systems. Its main tenet is that human actions (especially new technologies) must prove themselves harmless before being enacted.

RPR #156: #6: Precaution Is What's Needed

"To protect all public values, we need a precautionary approach to fisheries decisions, and many more no-take marine reserves."

RPR #156: #7: Precautionary Principle

"I would argue that it would serve us well to apply the precautionary principle right here in Butte County, California. The Tuscan aquifer would be a good place to start."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #155 (August 13, 2008):

RPR #155: #1: Chemical Industry Uses Deceptive Tactics Against Toxics Bill

"Perhaps the chemical industry fears what might happen if the public were given the straight story: Most parents, if presented with a matter of doubt for their infant's safety, would choose to err on the side of caution." -- Editors, San Francisco Chronicle

RPR #155: #2: Pesticide Settlement May Tighten Rules

The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) entered into a legal agreement July 30 in which the federal agency will review 37 currently registered pesticides to determine if they jeopardize endangered or threatened salmonid fish species.

RPR #155: #3: Hazards of Artificial Turf

"When it comes to synthetic turf, the most sensible approach may be to follow the precautionary principle of assuming something involving chemicals is hazardous until scientific evidence proves that it is not."

RPR #155: #4: Antibiotics Given To Animals 'Helping Spread Superbugs'

"Regulators appear reluctant to operate the precautionary principle for fear of sparking a new food crisis," says Mr Young.

RPR #155: #5: Congress Bans Toxic Chemicals, Pawlenty Vetoed Same Legislation

"This marks an important shift to a precautionary approach to protecting children's health," said Minnesota Sen. Sandy Rummel. "This is the right way to move ahead to achieve comprehensive reform of our nation's out-of-date system for regulating chemicals in consumer products," Rummel said.

RPR #155: #6: We Need To Adapt To Our Changing Climate

"In coping with a changed hazard [like global warming], it is vital that forward planning adopt the precautionary principle. When sewage bubbles up in the main street of our towns it is not nature's fault, but an engineering/ planning failure."

RPR #155: #7: Parents To Conduct Own EMF Readings

Since the Crown corporation announced the Vancouver Island Transmission Reinforcement project, MAPP, Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines (TRAHVOL) and others have argued the precautionary principle should be taken when it comes to exposing people to higher EMF levels.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #154 (August 6, 2008):

RPR #154: #1: Israel's Knesset Adopts Precaution in New Clean Air Law

The aim of the new law is: "to improve air quality and prevent and reduce air pollution, inter alia, by establishing prohibitions and obligations according to the precautionary principle, in order to protect human life, health and quality of life and to protect the environment including natural resources, ecosystems and biodiversity, for the public and for future generations, while considering their needs."

RPR #154: #2: U.S. Congress Restricts Toxic Plastics Softener in Toys

"I believe this legislation is important as the first national effort to begin to exercise a precautionary principle in the use of chemicals as additives to products that affect human health."

RPR #154: #3: Ten Points on 'Zero Waste'

Waste is the result of poor design -- there are no wastes in nature. Zero waste is what you come up with if you apply the precautionary principle to the problem of waste.

RPR #154: #4: Cell Phones on the Hook for Health Concerns

Therein lies the heart of the debate -- whether concerns over emerging technologies and new products should be tempered until scientific evidence accumulates verifying safety or harm, or whether to adopt a precautionary approach while uncertainty abounds.

RPR #154: #5: Regulators Seek To Redefine 'Working Life'

The Bush administration is playing with the numbers in risk assessments, trying to make it allowable to expose workers to greater chemical hazards.

RPR #154: #6: Incinerator Targeted in Climate Change Protest

"Health concerns with incineration remain unanswered and the precautionary principle should be adopted."

RPR #154: #7: Housing Development Stopped by Precautionary Action in Australia

"In this case the tribunal adopted a precautionary approach, in that even in the absence of full scientific certainty as to the degree of sea level rise, they found the likelihood that it will occur was such that the development should not proceed."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #153 (July 30, 2008):

RPR #153: #1: Canada Adopts the Precautionary Principle as Federal Policy

Under the Federal Sustainable Development Act, which became law in Canada in late June, the government must establish a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy with "measurable" targets for protecting Canada's environment in accordance with the precautionary principle.

RPR #153: #2: Late Lessons from Early Warnings for Nanotechnology

With nanotechnology, we are in danger of repeating old, and potentially costly, mistakes.

RPR #153: #3: Thinking Ahead

"While gasoline is more than $4 a gallon and the price of home heating oil soars, the blueberries ripen -- and they're free. Small miracles, their existence in my life is due solely to the foresight of a man I never met."

RPR #153: #4: Precaution for Cell Phones Urged

One of the hallmarks of the cell phone health controversy has been the silence of the U.S. public health communities. No medical, consumer, environmental or labor group has called for precaution, or even for more research. Now that's changing.

RPR #153: #5: Arroyo Criticized for Failure To Mention Toxic Pollution in Speech

In the Philippines, "The threat of toxic chemical crisis is real and has to be addressed head-on with the health, safety and livelihood of the people and the protection of the environment in mind." -- Manny Colonzo

RPR #153: #6: Granite Countertops Are Red Hot -- Perhaps Literally

What the industry fails to point out is that most public experts agree there is no safe level of radiation -- all radiation has the potential to damage cells, and cumulative, lifetime exposure is often cited as a major cause of many cancers.

RPR #153: #7: Untangling Fisheries Management

Would the precautionary principle undermine sustainable fisheries management in New Zealand?

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #152 (July 23, 2008):

RPR #152: #1: Environment Becomes Heredity

The emergence of epigenetics, fetal origins of disease and endocrine disruption theories bolsters the argument for adopting the precautionary principle when regulating the environment.

RPR #152: #2: Keep Cell Phone Chargers at a Distance...

In Israel, "ministerial policy on non-ionizing radiation is based on the precautionary principle with the aim of minimizing, as far as possible, public exposure to radiation, using available technologies at reasonable cost."

RPR #152: #3: New Era Dawns for World's Oceans Via EPOCA

Countries are requested to ensure that ocean fertilisation activities do not take place until there is an adequate scientific basis.

RPR #152: #4: Should the Fisheries Quota System Be Scrapped?

The last UK Minister for Nature Conservation and Fisheries, Ben Bradshaw, called the conservation of the marine environment "the second biggest environmental challenge the world faces after climate change." What have fishing quotas got to do with it?

RPR #152: #5: Biodiversity Important for All of Us

A strong endangered species law in British Columbia would identify, protect, and recover at-risk biodiversity by protecting habitat.... It would enshrine the precautionary principle, whereby the absence of full scientific certainty could not be used to postpone decisions when there is a real threat of serious harm. It should also include participation from all citizens and communities, including First Nations.

RPR #152: #6: Soluble Green

One approach to this [loss of species] is the 'precautionary principle' -- protecting weaker species just in case.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #151 (July 16, 2008):

RPR #151: #1: The Precautionary Principle Is Not Self-Implementing

The single most important question proponents of an activity should have to answer about the safety of their product is, "What if we are wrong?"

RPR #151: #2: The Fall of the U.S. and the Rise of Europe

Companies and state governments in the US, China and the rest of the world increasingly take their legislative lead on issues such as environmental standards, health and safety regulation and consumer protection not from Washington, but Brussels.

RPR #151: #3: Girls Interrupted

Reproductive health advocates are urging lawmakers to use a precautionary principle that says there's enough evidence to warn people that these [hormone-disrupting] chemicals can be unsafe. At the least, chemical ingredients in consumer products should be fully disclosed.

RPR #151: #4: Editorial: California's Green Chemistry Initiative

The toxic substances in your sunscreen, plastic bottles, mattresses and a list of other consumer products far too long to cite may be killing you.-- Editors, Los Angeles Times

RPR #151: #5: France Okays Red Bull Sale Despite Reservations

The health minister of France described Red Bull as an "explosive cocktail" that was potentially harmful to one's health. The minister told the senate that the drink was already being sold freely in 23 European Union member countries, which meant that the precautionary principle was not enough to win "the lawsuit that the Red Bull manufacturer was threatening to file against the French government."

RPR #151: #6: Are Genetically Modified Organisms Safe?

Even if you choose to grow all of your own organic food as a precaution, growing them from purchased certified organic seed, it doesn't necessarily mean that they haven't been genetically engineered, because GMOs do not have to be labeled.

RPR #151: #7: The Public Benefits of Private Property Rights

Can an extreme libertarian political philosophy lead to a precautionary approach to protecting the natural environment?

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #150 (July 9, 2008):

RPR #150: #1: Descansos and Chemicals Policy

U.S. chemicals policies of the past 35 years have been based on certain assumptions about the science of toxic chemicals that have turned out to be false.

RPR #150: #2: Memo on the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act

"Growing scientific evidence of human contamination with hazardous chemicals and mounting global toxic pollution underscores the urgency of reforming the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)."

RPR #150: #3: Fertile Ground for Exploitation

For the first time ever, governments have exercised precaution to limit a global geo-engineering scheme -- deep-sixing a plan to fertilize the oceans with iron for the purpose of capturing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

RPR #150: #4: The Seven Challenges of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

"A new paradigm in toxicology is needed to establish toxic effects at lower, non-lethal doses. Then, the precautionary principle can be adopted to regulate potentially harmful chemicals when scientific evidence is convincing."

RPR #150: #5: The British House of Lords Rejects 'Precaution vs. Civil Liberties'

In RPR #124 British Prime Minister Gordon Brown explained why he wants to change British law to allow imprisonment of individuals for up to 42 days without any charges: in a time of terrorism, precaution requires it, he said. Now it looks as if the House of Lords has killed Brown's plan because they don't see it as a valid exercise of precaution -- in fact, quite the opposite.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #149 (July 2, 2008):

RPR #149: #1: The Power of Prevention and What It Requires

The central idea of public health -- primary prevention -- has given rise to the precautionary principle. But now the medical community has begun to realize that primary prevention itself has been neglected, creating a crisis in health and health care in the U.S.

RPR #149: #2: On Preventable Chronic Disease

Preventable disease is now costing the U.S. $1.3 trillion per year (not to mention pain and anguish), according to a report published last year.

RPR #149: #3: European Trade Unions Want REACH Amended To Include Nanotechnology

European trade unions want the new REACH chemical-policy law amended to include a precautionary approach to nanotechnology.

RPR #149: #4: Tropical Biodiversity on 'a Trajectory Toward Disaster'

Reviewing the current state of knowledge about tropical diversity and the looming continuing degradation of ecosystems, Corey Bradshaw and colleagues conclude "we are already squarely in the midst of a tropical biodiversity tragedy and on a trajectory toward disaster." They urge adoption of the precautionary principle...

RPR #149: #5: Cancer Risk from Cellphone Use Is Still a Matter for Study

Scientists still can't say with certainty that placing a cellphone against the head is completely safe, especially for heavy users and people who began using the devices as children. It is an obvious case for precaution: take reasonable steps to minimize exposure.

RPR #149: #6: The Color of Money

Europe uses the precautionary principle, which puts the burden of proof for the safety of a product on its manufacturer. We Americans on the other hand, use the rule of causation; we wait for conclusive scientific evidence of toxic exposure and harmful effects before acting.

RPR #149: #7: Stop Trashing the Climate

Eric Lombardi argues that the road to zero waste -- a fully precautionary approach to waste -- begins by separating our household discards into three bins.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #148 (June 25, 2008):

RPR #148: #1: Progressive Librarians Guild Statement on Wifi in Libraries

"The Precautionary Principle can act as a policy guide in which to critically debate the risks and benefits of wireless technology."

RPR #148: #2: Toxic Shock

"Europeans operate according to the precautionary principle, which means if there's an accumulation of scientific evidence suggesting potential harm, the government is empowered to act. Compare that to the U.S. approach, which calls for a very high level of absolute, or irrefutable, scientific proof."

RPR #148: #3: New European Disclosure Law Shifts 'Burden of Proof' To Industry

Shifting the burden of proof is one of the most important elements of the precautionary principle: Chemicals should be tested for safety before marketing. No data? No market.

RPR #148: #4: The Science of Playing Safe

The precautionary principle is being successfully applied in all sorts of controversial decisions.

RPR #148: #5: As Nanotechnology Gains Ground, So Do Concerns

Stavros Dimas, the European Union's environment commissioner, last week emphasized both the potential benefits and dangers of nanotechnology, saying it was the duty of regulators "to ensure that society benefits from novel applications of nanotechnologies" while "fully applying the precautionary principle."

RPR #148: #6: Nanotech: The Unknown Risks

"While U.S. regulators generally presume products to be safe until proven harmful, the EU's new REACH legislation demands that manufacturers demonstrate the safety of their chemicals."

RPR #148: #7: Ethics of Agricultural Technologies Under Scrutiny

"Europe can perhaps afford to make a fuss about food safety and ask for the precautionary principle to be respected as the continent still has enough food to eat but this is not the case for all regions of the world," said Professor Wilhem Gruissem.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #147 (June 18, 2008):

RPR #147: #1: The Europe Effect

European Policy is bound at its foundation to comply with the "precautionary principle," the idea that perhaps it is not best to wait until a product is harming the population before investigating its properties.

RPR #147: #2: Minnesota Public Health Association Endorses Green Chemistry

The Minnesota Public Health Association recently adopted a resolution endorsing green chemistry and calling for the phase out of toxic, persistent, bioaccumulative chemicals when safer alternatives exist.

RPR #147: #3: Trouble Beneath the Bubbles

"There are over 80,000 entities in common use in our everyday environment -- there is no way we are ever going to know conclusively whether all these chemicals are hazardous or not," she says. "What we really need to be embracing is the precautionary principle."

RPR #147: #4: Vinyl Shower Curtains Contain Potentially Toxic Chemicals

As author and biologist, Theo Colburn was the first to identify plastics as potential endocrine disruptors in her seminal book, Our Stolen Future, (1996). She urged then and today the "Precautionary Principle," adopting a "guilty until proven innocent" bias toward the introduction of common contaminants into our environment...

RPR #147: #5: Baby Bottles Safe, FDA Official Says

Dr. Ted Schettler, director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, took a more cautionary view. He told lawmakers that animal testing showed low-level bisphenol A exposures during fetal development can alter development of the prostate gland and breast. These changes could increase the risk of cancer, he said.

RPR #147: #6: Isis Report: The Precautionary Principle Is Science-based

Prof. Peter Saunders and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho look at a few of the many examples where scientific evidence has made a compelling case for the application of the precautionary principle.

RPR #147: #7: How Industry Should Respond To the Precautionary Principal

In 2000, this industry strategy document laid out a plan for combatting the precautionary principle. The strategy is still being pursued by various industries.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #146 (June 11, 2008):

RPR #146: #1: Why the U.S. Cannot Adopt the Precautionary Principle

Why can't the U.S. ever seem to adopt a precautionary approach to problems? Perhaps it's because there are political advantages to allowing crises to develop. In her important book Shock Doctrine, author Naomi Klein describes and documents how this works.

RPR #146: #2: Maine Enacts Chemical Policy Reform

In April the Maine legislature enacted (and in May the governor signed) a hazard-based, comprehensive chemical policy to drive safer alternatives to dangerous chemicals in consumer products. The bill embodies the precautionary principle in statute and rejects risk assessment.

RPR #146: #3: U.S. FDA Admits Risks of Mercury Dental Fillings, Settles Lawsuit

As a result of a lawsuit, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is edging toward a precautionary approach to mercury in dental fillings.

RPR #146: #4: 'Silver' Mercury Fillings May Harm Pregnant Women

Amalgam or 'silver' dental fillings contain mercury which may have neurotoxic effects on the nervous systems of developing children and fetuses, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

RPR #146: #5: To Coldly Go

"I favour the precautionary principle in that we prove we can tread carefully enough as tourists elsewhere first -- something we most certainly have not achieved yet -- before we despoil this pristine place [Antarctica]."

RPR #146: #6: The Price of Peak Fuel

We simply need to begin finding ways to use less oil and search for alternatives. "It's the precautionary principle we should apply, just as we do with greenhouse-gas emissions."

RPR #146: #7: All Chemicals Have Risks

"Sweden, Norway and Denmark have de-registered [the popular weed killer] 2,4-D, citing the precautionary principle to protect their most vulnerable citizens, especially fetuses, infants and children, from environmental hazards."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #145 (June 4, 2008):

RPR #145: #1: Well Well Well -- Time To Ban Pesticides

We need to tell those who dismiss the precautionary principle as na´ve and frivolous to back off -- and to go get to know someone with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or leukemia or any of the long list of associated illnesses and see if they can look them in the eye and tell them it's too bad we don't know beyond a shadow of doubt exactly which of our environmental poisons stressed their body to the point of illness.

RPR #145: #2: Yes, We Can

"The duty of progressives is to apply rigorously the precautionary principle and attempt to control the corporations that seek to control us."

RPR #145: #3: Proposed Actions for Obama To Chart a New Course for the U.S.

Mr. Obama should counter the deniers of the issue of climate change by citing the precautionary principle contained in the legally binding Framework Convention on Climate Change, which reads that where there is a threat of climate change, the lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postpone measures to prevent the threat [a paraphrase].

RPR #145: #4: EU Appeals WTO Ruling on U.S., Canada Sanctions Over Hormones

The European Union's ban on certain genetically modified food reflects the bloc's "better-safe-than-sorry" food safety policy, known as the precautionary principle.

RPR #145: #5: Precautionary Signs To Warn People Away from Arsenic Site

Until a study is completed, "we are taking the precaution of keeping people out. That's the precautionary principle," he said, "and I like that."

RPR #145: #6: Al Gore and Innovation

"Nobody can say with certainty that Al Gore is right or wrong about climate change. But the political changes afoot in the name of fighting climate change are not trivial, they are epochal, and therefore simply arguing we should invoke the precautionary principle is not something that should be stated unequivocably [sic]..."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #144 (May 28, 2008):

RPR #144: #1: Early Warning Signs at the Global Warming Cafe

Most of environmentalists' time and creative energy is bent toward policy. Books on climate, organizational manifestos, and blog posts argue the finer points of carbon taxes versus cap-and-trade and other, often arcane, details. Little of our thinking or resources goes into social change theory, political strategy (aside from elections), organizing and campaigning, applying lessons from U.S. history....

RPR #144: #2: Canadian Cancer Society Favours Cosmetic Pesticides Ban

"The evidence is definitely suggestive and growing. It's not 100- per-cent conclusive, but we feel there's enough existing at this point in time to invoke the precautionary principle."

RPR #144: #3: Students Walk Out To Protest High-Voltage Power Line Near School

The Tsawwassen Residents Against Higher Voltage Overhead Lines (TRAHVOL) have released their own document, written by Dr. Bruce Owen with the University of B.C., on the potential effects of electromagnetic fields. "If ever there was a case for adopting the 'Precautionary Principle' it is this one," he writes.

RPR #144: #4: Push To Ban Plastic Toy Chemicals Linked To Health of Baby Boys

Dr Lloyd-Smith said the European Union had adopted a precautionary principle that makes sense. "The industry just keeps saying 'you haven't done the toxicity studies that show this amount in a human causes that'," she said. "But, of course you don't, because you just can't do those studies."

RPR #144: #5: Namibia: Enviro Management Act Almost There

"Nghitila said the new Act contains important principles such as the principle of sustainable utilization of equitable use of natural resources, precautionary principle in the absence of any knowledge or science, polluter pay principle and community involvement, amongst others."

RPR #144: #6: Act Now To Save Precious Wildlife

For many years now, the Irish Council Against Blood Sports has been calling on successive ministers for the environment to stop issuing hare-netting licences, and for harrying and beagling to be outlawed, all to no avail, while our neighbours in Ulster have adopted the precautionary principle and have suspended all hare hunting and coursing.

RPR #144: #7: GM Foods the Problem, Not the Solution

"We consider that, in accordance with the precautionary principle in questions of food and health, GMOs [genetically modified organisms] must simply remain banned from our tables." Similar campaigns are under way in other European countries.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #143 (May 21, 2008):

RPR #143: #1: Our Tails Get in the Way

"We can't keep burning fossil fuels, period. And we have very little time to make our choices. The evidence for this has been building up steadily over the last two years, but the paper that James Hansen presented a few weeks ago pretty much put the final nail in the coffin -- the old targets for carbon reduction are far too high, and we are going to essentially have to reduce industrial emissions to near zero, and very soon."

RPR #143: #2: Climate Changed

While powerholders can no longer ignore global warming, they can certainly delay action through obfuscation and false solutions. And surprisingly, nearly all of the distractions and false solutions proposed by government or industry have been embraced by parts of the environmental movement.

RPR #143: #3: Bruce Cox Defends Greenpeace (and Takes on Patrick Moore)

Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, has had a change of heart in midlife and now spends his days providing high-priced consulting services to polluters, promoting nuclear energy, and bashing Greenpeace and other environmental groups. Here Bruce Cox, the head of Greenpeace Canada, replies to a recent Moore essay.

RPR #143: #4: Green Cleaners Required in Illinois Schools

"We took 10 chemicals off the shelves," said Lockport custodial manager Ken Kirkland, whose school went green in 2003. "The whole point is we discovered that you don't need a high industrial-strength cleaner to get a smudge mark off a desk."

RPR #143: #5: Is India Ready for Genetically Modified Food?

Experts say the systems to monitor and test GM food are grossly inadequate in India. However, if granted approval by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, Bt brinjal would be the first genetically modified vegetable anywhere in the world.

RPR #143: #6: Europe Moves One Step Closer To New Rules for Food Additives

At the second reading vote earlier this month on new European regulations for additives, flavourings and enzymes, MEPs [members of the European Parliament] stressed that "enzymes should be authorised only if there is a benefit to the consumer" and that "the precautionary principle should apply."

RPR #143: #7: Democracy Denied

What we have is a government that has no problem looking out for our own best interests but only if it can exploit the headlines and make it fit with their agenda. No smoking in public places, an admirable achievement, second hand smoke has been proven to kill. Great headline getter, not very realistic. Why then does this same government turn its head away about using the same precautionary principle when it comes to high voltage radiation?

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #142 (May 14, 2008):

RPR #142: #1: Forget Chemicals, Rockport Likes Its Dandelions

The town's new pesticide policy, which was created by a group of citizens and town employees in Camden, Me., said that the town supports the Precautionary Principle as defined by the Wingspread Statement of January 1998 as the basis for its policy.

RPR #142: #2: Two Illinois Towns Ban Phosphorus Fertilizers for Lawns

"In recent years, there has been a growing awareness about the problem of nutrient pollution -- too much phosphorus and nitrogen," said Ed Hopkins, director of the Sierra Club's environmental quality program. "I think we will begin to see more restrictions on the use of lawn fertilizers because the problem with nutrient pollution is growing worse."

RPR #142: #3: Video Gamers Challenged To Embrace the Precautionary Principle

Video gamers and media makers are invited to participate in a contest to make the best short videos that address the climate crisis, species extinction, or environmental justice. Contestants are encouraged to include concepts like the guardianship of future generations and the precautionary principle.

RPR #142: #4: Europe Sounds Alarm Bells Over Genetically Modified Crops

"An unrelated but equally welcome piece of news on the GM [genetically modified food] front aired last week when the residents of Montville, a small community located in Maine became the first town outside of California to ban the cultivation of genetically engineered crops."

RPR #142: #5: Study Links Invasive Species To Affluence

The researchers recommend strong new restrictions on the import of nonnative species to certain areas. "If there is one case where the precautionary principle should be applied in conservation biology, this is the one," Leprieur said.

RPR #142: #6: Road Construction in Australia Threatens Endangered Species

A 15-year fight to stop a new road in New South Wales, Australia hinges on taking a precautionary approach (or not) to protecting endangered species.

RPR #142: #7: GMOs: The Bad Seed?

Why would precautionary principle-brandishing France allow any genetically modified organisms within its borders?

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #141 (May 7, 2008):

RPR #141: #1: EU Environment Committee Urges New Food Additive Rules

"A food additive may be authorized only if it is safe in use, if there is a technological need for its use, if its use does not mislead the consumer and if it has advantages and benefits to him, says the report. Food additives would be completely banned in unprocessed food, as would sweeteners and colourings in food for babies and small children."

RPR #141: #2: European Commission To Reject Genetically Modified Corn Varieties

"Nobody knows what the long-term impacts [of planting GM crops] will be and [European Environmental Commissioner Stavros] Dimas is obliged to follow the precautionary principle."

RPR #141: #3: Lakehead University Says No To Wifi

Lakehead University's policy states that there will be no use of WiFi in those areas of the University already served by hard wire connectivity until such time as the potential health effects have been scientifically rebutted or there are adequate protective measures that can be taken.

RPR #141: #4: Hazard To Kids

"To say that there is no reliable scientific evidence that indicates cause for concern from exposure to these two chemicals [phthalates and bisphenol A] implies that they have been proven safe. This is simply not the case. As the growing body of related research indicates cause for concern, it is necessary to include the precautionary approach in this debate."

RPR #141: #5: New Pesticide Ban Is Under Consideration

"Courtenay is just one of numerous municipalities around British Columbia and elsewhere in Canada that have implemented such [pesticide] bans, and some big retailers, including Home Depot, are moving toward voluntarily withdrawing the sale of such chemicals."

RPR #141: #6: Seller's Market?

"It's the precautionary principle," says Yvonne. She wonders why plastic baby bottles with a potentially toxic substance are now being taken off the shelves as a precautionary measure, but the same consideration isn't being taken for homeowners under the [high voltage power] lines.

RPR #141: #7: Taking Human Side of Protecting Endangered Species

A writer celebrates Secretary of Interior Kempthorne's unblemished record of never taking a precautionary approach to protect endangered species. "Secretary Kempthorne hasn't listed a single new species under the Endangered Species Act. We thank him for that."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #140 (April 30, 2008):

RPR #140: #1: Arsenic in Baby Rice Is a Cancer Risk, Say Scientists

"Only in the last three or four years has it been widely known that rice is a quite dominant source of inorganic arsenic to anybody's diet. It's a carcinogen, so I think until we are sure we should take the precautionary principle."

RPR #140: #2: Israeli Scientists Fight Food Crisis with Gene Research

"If anything goes wrong when GMO [genetically modified organisms] are released into the environment, there is no way to get them back. We cannot manage the risk, and the precautionary principle must prevail," Van Aken said.

RPR #140: #3: Toxic Chemical Bans Highlight Bigger Problems

Mr. Cullen's bill includes a provision for the government to adopt the "precautionary principle" approach when assessing chemicals "This would enable [the government] to be a lot more shrewd and decisive about their analysis," he said.

RPR #140: #4: Petitions Signed Against Sebastopol Council's Wi-Fi Ban

Taking a precautionary approach, the city council of Sebastopol, California is having second thoughts about installing a wide-area wireless computer network -- but local students are asking, "Why worry about little more radiation?"

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #139 (April 23, 2008):

RPR #139: #1: If This Meat Was from a Cloned Animal, Would You Eat It?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has now lifted a voluntary ban on the sale of cloned food that has been in place since 1999. Farmers can freely sell the meat and milk from the offspring of cloned animals. Would you knowingly eat such products?

RPR #139: #2: Living Above the Line

Our legal and economic systems are based on the assumption that economic growth always provides more benefits than harms. But now that we have exceeded many of Earth's ecological limits, that basic assumption no longer holds true. The implications are profound.

RPR #139: #3: Swiss Retailers Introduce Code of Conduct for Nanotechnology

An association of Swiss retailers has adopted a code of conduct that includes the precautionary principle for the sale of products involving nanotechnology.

RPR #139: #4: Greener Grass

"As to how much exposure or how much of a risk that is, it's still ill-defined. It comes down to the precautionary principle. If we don't know the risks of these [lawn] chemicals, then we should take precautions and not use them, especially because it's an aesthetic use."

RPR #139: #5: Brussels Wants Better Warnings on Violent Video Games

Despite its concern that some video games could cause "aggressive behaviour" in individuals, the commission admitted that a direct link between video games and violence is difficult to establish. Instead, commissioner Kuneva said, "we need to work... on the precautionary principle".

RPR #139: #6: Study Finds EU Leading Way in Nanotech Safety

The European Commission is playing a leading role in the global debate on responsible nanotechnology through its initiatives such as the Code of Conduct for Responsible Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Research. In this code, the Commission specifically asked member states to respect the precautionary principle in research on nanosciences.

RPR #139: #7: New Law Introduces Civil Liability for Environmental Damage

Malta has adopted a precaution approach to environmental damage, including a duty to prevent harm, and the principle that polluters shall pay.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #138 (April 16, 2008):

RPR #138: #1: Ban Six Food Colourings, Say European Consumer Organisations

"We, the undersigned 42 organisations from 12 member states representing a wide range of consumer groups, food and health charities, and parents, call on the European Commissioner to employ the precautionary principle by suspending use of certain food colourings found to affect the activity and attention of children."

RPR #138: #2: Petitions Signed Against Sebastopol Council's Wi-Fi Ban

Taking a precautionary approach, the city council of Sebastopol, California is having second thoughts about installing a wide-area wireless computer network -- but local students are asking, "Why worry about little more radiation?"

RPR #138: #3: Environmentalists Decry Hunting's Record Toll on B.C. Grizzlies

Mr. Genovali said he is concerned because B.C. [British Columbia] doesn't know how many grizzly bears there are in the province. "These bears are being taken out of a population that we don't believe the government has a handle on," he said. "This is the opposite of the precautionary principle."

RPR #138: #4: Lawmaker Heightens Awareness for Pesticide Notification

"We are not asking for a complete ban; we are asking people to use the precautionary principle... if there is a risk of harm, you don't use pesticides, and in this case at least notify the neighbors that you are using them so they can protect themselves and their animals."

RPR #138: #5: City's Waste Not Wasted: Sludge Is Used on Crops

"A lot of organic standards follow the precautionary principle that it's better to err on the side of caution, of being too safe, rather than not safe enough," Janke said.... "You just never know. It seems like the more research we do, the more we learn how these things [toxicants in sludge applied to soils] really work," Janke said.

RPR #138: #6: Brominated Chemicals Industry Attacks Greenpeace

The brominated chemicals industry attacks Greenpeace and claims that the precautionary principle demands the use of brominated flame retardants, which Greenpeace opposes.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #137 (April 9, 2008):

RPR #137: #1: Should We Appoint a Legal Guardian for Future Generations?

"So what we are proposing is that the next U.S. president should designate a 'Legal Guardian for Future Generations' to evaluate policy decisions and proposals based on the impact they will have on future generations, and to speak on behalf of future generations."

RPR #137: #2: Heal Your Home: The Case for Precaution

"The EPA [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] seldom requires industry to produce data," says Dr. Steven Gilbert. "With about 3,000 chemicals produced at over one million pounds each year going into our environment, it's a huge issue that our government doesn't take a more precautionary approach."

RPR #137: #3: Will Europe's New Chemicals Policy Bring Precaution To the World?

How will Europe's new chemicals policy, known as REACH, affect chemicals policy in the U.S.? Could REACH bring precaution to the world?

RPR #137: #4: Making Nanotubes Without Harming the Environment

How do these new manufacturing processes impact people's health? How do they impact the environment? Most important, if the processes are not safe, how can we make them safer?"

RPR #137: #5: Protecting Public Health by Preventing Pollution

"The old adage, 'It's easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission,' doesn't apply with Mother Nature, and it doesn't apply with public health," she said. "We need to be proactive about preventing future environmental catastrophes, and now we have the means to do it."

RPR #137: #6: Nature Has Rights Too

"Having a law is one thing, its implementation is another. The precautionary principle has not been enforced, for example, on big projects like the Three Gorges dam on the Yangtze river in China, which has now been declared a disaster by the government."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #136 (April 2, 2008):

RPR #136: #1: Pesticides: A Toxic Time Bomb in Our Midst

Levine has written a pragmatic book for physicians, health workers, and the general public.... His own perspective as a health professional with a concern for the public health and a fondness for the "precautionary principle," which assumes that a chemical is harmful unless there is good evidence to the contrary, is not hidden.

RPR #136: #2: Asking a Judge To Save the World, and Maybe a Whole Lot More

"Although [the lawsuit] sounds bizarre, the case touches on a serious issue that has bothered scholars and scientists in recent years -- namely how to estimate the risk of new groundbreaking experiments and who gets to decide whether or not to go ahead."

RPR #136: #3: What Is Nanotechnology and Should We Be Concerned About It?

"Industry and government are belatedly conducting safety tests that will take several years to reach firm conclusions. Therefore we've applied the precautionary principle."

RPR #136: #4: River Contains Radioactivity

"In order to conform to the precautionary principle, further investigations are in process."

RPR #136: #5: Lessons from Quebec on How To Ban Lawn and Garden Pesticides

Across Canada, 140 municipalities have adopted bylaws restricting the use of pesticides on public and private property.

RPR #136: #6: Major Challenges Facing Petrochemical Industry

Chemical industry executives fear that Europe's new chemicals policy, REACH -- the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals -- reflects an effort by environmental activists "to bring their own version of the precautionary principle, a thinly disguised synonym for product substitution, to the global arena".

RPR #136: #7: Demon Seed

"Curiously when it comes to GMOs they [Africans] adopt the highly precautionary European standard, which makes it impossible to put these products on the market at all. I take that as evidence that this is not an authentic African response, it's a response imported from Europe."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #135 (March 26, 2008):

RPR #135: #1: North Pender Island, in Canada, Adopts a Precautionary Plan

North Pender Island, B.C., has adopted an official community plan based on the "precautionary principle," meaning that when there are threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures will be taken even if the science is not fully established.

RPR #135: #2: Legislation for the Birds

"Little recognized was the fact that for the first time in N.J. environmental law, the Legislature embraced a true precautionary principle. The scientific standard in the law should serve as a model and precedent."

RPR #135: #3: The Ethics of Embryology

Health and safety regulation is now an accepted (although often criticised) feature of modern life, as is a version of the "precautionary principle" which obliges those proposing some technological innovation to provide reasonable scientific evidence that it will not cause great or irreversible harm to individuals or the environment.

RPR #135: #4: Op-Ed: Faiths Accepting Global Warming

Religion and science come together on global warming in a contemporary application of both Blaise Pascal's Pensees and the "precautionary principle."

RPR #135: #5: Mexico: New Rules Pave the Way for Transgenic Crops

Aleira Lara, the coordinator of Greenpeace Mexico's sustainable agriculture campaign, told IPS that the entire regulatory framework is designed to promote biotechnology at the expense of the precautionary principle. "The Rules are one more step in that direction," she said.

RPR #135: #6: Elk Sterilization Plan Now Unlikely

"I'm really pleased with the consensus that sterilization is not consistent with the goal of maintaining ecological integrity and the precautionary principle," said Gaby Zezulka-Maillou.

RPR #135: #7: Spas: How Toxic Is Your 'Natural' Spa?

Neal's Yard Remedies is another skincare manufacturer committed to restricting use of potentially risky substances. "We operate according to the precautionary principle, so we don't use substances such as parabens," explains Neal's Yard medicines director Susan Curtis.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #134 (March 19, 2008):

RPR #134: #1: Letter from Scientists To the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations

"The rush to 'feed Africa' should in no way excuse crop geneticists and agricultural development agencies from exercising the precautionary principle in evaluating their experiments; neither the Africans themselves nor the diverse African landscapes deserve to be recklessly experimented upon."

RPR #134: #2: Diseases Like Mine Are a Growing Hazard

"What can we do to lower the stakes for future generations? We could take a page from European environmental policy and its 'precautionary principle' of preventing harm before it occurs."

RPR #134: #3: Elk Sterilization Plan Now Unlikely

"I'm really pleased with the consensus that sterilization is not consistent with the goal of maintaining ecological integrity and the precautionary principle," said Gaby Zezulka-Maillou.

RPR #134: #4: Nanoparticles Already on EU Shelves Warn Green Groups

A new report on nanotechnology products in food argues that the current regulations are insufficient and that a more precautionary approach is required.

RPR #134: #5: Progress in Pacific Fisheries Protection

"Anderton said he was pleased about broad agreement on a precautionary approach to fisheries management, whereby all parties consider long term sustainability of a fishery over short term fishing opportunities."

RPR #134: #6: Benin Renews Moratorium on GMOs

"In keeping with the precautionary principle, Benin adopted on 2 March 2002, a five-year moratorium on the import, marketing and use of GMOs or GMO by-products on its territory."

RPR #134: #7: Hayleys Continuous Engagement with the Community

In this puff piece, a Sri Lankan newspaper showcases a major Sri Lankan company's commitment to precaution and other modern principles of development. --RPR editors

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #133 (March 12, 2008):

RPR #133: #1: Green Bill of Rights Is Cornerstone of Environmental Handbook

In Canada, the 11 largest environmental groups are urging their federal government to adopt a "precautionary" principle for addressing environmental issues by acting to resolve problems even when there is scientific uncertainty.

RPR #133: #2: SARS -- Five Years Later

"SARS ushered in significant improvements to the health-care system [in Ontario], not the least of which is adoption of the 'precautionary principle.' That dictates hospitals take measures erring on the side of caution in the face of a potential public health threat rather than waiting for scientific proof."

RPR #133: #3: Concern in Europe on Cellphone Ads for Children

"I believe in the principle of precaution," Ms. Bachelot said in an interview. "If there is a risk, then children with developing nervous systems would be affected. I've alerted parents about the use of mobile telephones because it's absurd for young children to have them."

RPR #133: #4: Outspoken Scientist Dismissed from Panel on Chemical Safety

What happens to a scientist who believes her knowledge warrants a precautionary approach to a toxic chemical? For her ethical stance, she is smeared by the chemical industry and then U.S. EPA removes from an advisory panel. In the mainstream media, this is not being discussed as an attack on precaution (and science), but that's exactly what it is.

RPR #133: #5: In Scotland, a Huge Fish Farm Is Rejected

A jubilant COAST spokesman said: "We welcome this democratic decision by the councillors of North Ayrshire Council to apply the 'precautionary principle' by refusing the massive fish farm next to the no-take zone."

RPR #133: #6: India May Water Down Its Environmental Laws Further

"The EIA [environmental impact assessment] notification has already been significantly diluted in 2006 towards facilitating the clearance of projects. Today, its text and implementation are clearly directed towards mitigation and management of impacts rather than the precautionary principle and rejection of projects with critical impacts," the official added.

RPR #133: #7: Medical Students Celebrate 58 Years of Student Activism

The American Medical Students Association is hosting an all-day conference on climate change, environmental justice, occupational medicine, children's environmental health, toxics and the precautionary principle, obesity and the built environment, international environmental health and improving the sustainability of healthcare.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #132 (March 5, 2008):

RPR #132: #1: The Delayed Introduction of Unleaded Petrol

In New Zealand (as in the U.S.), the dangers of toxic lead in gasoline were known for decades, but safer substitutes were not adopted, partly because of "the absence of a precautionary principle as part of risk management policy in regard to children's health, even when all the evidence pointed in this direction."

RPR #132: #2: A Tower of Issues

"If you look at these things [radio towers], it's pretty convincing that you've got a real question mark here, and that it would pay to err on the precautionary side," BRACT member Joseph DiGennaro said at a meeting on Monday.

RPR #132: #3: For Sarkozy and Dubya, a Shared Playbook

"This [new French] law essentially authorizes people to be detained for crimes they might commit in the future, not the crime they have already committed, a stunning extension of the precautionary principle."

RPR #132: #4: Public Urged To Lead on Environmental Safety

Speakers urged the government to use what they called the "precautionary principle," an approach to environmental protection that puts public health first. New Jersey, they said, needs to make the public's health and safety the top priority because the state has more than 15,000 contaminated sites, as well as some of the nation's highest rates for cancer and chronic lung disease.

RPR #132: #5: Why Precaution Is Needed

Human activities are now ruining the Earth as a place suitable for human habitation. Because of this new reality, a new way of making decisions is needed. That's why the precautionary principle has emerged in recent years, to help people defend the future.

RPR #132: #6: Precaution: A New Way To Make Decisions

The precautionary principle is a new way of making decisions, quite different from the current way.

RPR #132: #7: Sunset of the Precaution Reporter Revisited

Last week we announced the sunset of Rachel's Precaution Reporter without explanation. Here's a bit more detail.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #131 (February 27, 2008):

RPR #131: #1: Ontario Nurses Write Precautionary Principle into Labor Contract

The Ontario Nurses' Associated has negotiated a labor contract that includes the precautionary principle. We have not seen the proposed language, and the contract has not yet been approved by union members, but this seems an important advance for labor and for the precautionary principle.

RPR #131: #2: Losing Another Winnable War: Childhood Cancer

"Can we change the course of childhood cancer? Yes we can! But only if we have committed leadership, a committed Congress and, yes, a strong president who will reject the industry influences that have created a toxic environment that continues to harm our children."

RPR #131: #3: Learning and Developmental Disabilities Linked To Environment

We are still dealing with the health effects of adding lead to paint and gasoline, even though at the time the toxic effects of lead were well known. "To protect children, a precautionary approach is required that shifts the burden of responsibility to producers or manufacturers to demonstrate safety prior to potential exposure."

RPR #131: #4: Fish-farm Plan Sparks Fears for Marine Reserve

"We cannot take a chance with the health of our children, or the health of our fragile marine environment in this place. 'The precautionary principle should apply here, and this fish farm should be located somewhere more suitable.'"

RPR #131: #5: Pest Control Operators Need To Protect Environment

"The fact that we don't have definitive statements (linking pesticides to cancer), means that we have to use the precautionary principle. We have to be careful that when we use and sell pesticides, we are doing it appropriately," he added.

RPR #131: #6: To Regulate or Not To Regulate?

"These bills are efforts to implement a particularly toxic version of the precautionary principle without actually mentioning it for public discussion and debate. It's a version that presumes chemicals and technology are guilty until proven innocent."

RPR #131: #7: Sunset of Rachel's Precaution Reporter

Rachel's Precaution Reporter will cease publication a year from now.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #130 (February 20, 2008):

RPR #130: #1: Green Economics and New Thinking

Ordinary risk analysis asks, "How much environmental damage will be allowed?" But the precautionary principle asks, "How little damage is possible?" Today we're seeing the principle adopted more and more widely.

RPR #130: #2: The Doctors Are In. the Jury Is Out.

It is "very unwise to wait until we have complete scientific truth" and the "prudent judgment is to protect human health."

RPR #130: #3: Wingspread Takes Flight

Over ten years of promoting the precautionary principle as a helpful tool for creating healthier communities, one of the joys of doing this work has been hearing the stories of communities all over the country who have made the principle their own.

RPR #130: #4: Policy, Persuasion, Possibilities: Wingspread Plus Ten

The simple idea of protecting people and the environment despite scientific uncertainty was really the gateway for a whole complex of ideas that could set a new track for environmental policy in this country and in the world.

RPR #130: #5: Learning and Teaching Precaution

"It is the work of the next ten years to transform teaching precaution from mention in the text to the foundation of our thinking."

RPR #130: #6: Evidence Gathers on Health Hazards of Power Lines

"The fact that the evidence has amalgamated over the last three or four years has certainly shifted my view to see there is sufficient evidence now to say we should probably apply the precautionary principle in order to save lives."

RPR #130: #7: Zones for Scam

"We must respect the "precautionary principle" and not resort to land acquisition unless it can be demonstrated to increase welfare. We must invest real content in the right to life."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #129 (February 13, 2008):

RPR #129: #1: Virginia Town Bans Chemical and Radioactive Bodily Trespass

A municipality takes precautionary action against chemical exposures without informed consent ("chemical trespass"): Halifax, Va. joins the growing list of communities recognizing the rights of nature.

RPR #129: #2: Fluoridation's Evaporating Support

"Even if it's sixty years late, the precautionary principle remains a valid guide. Further damage will end with a moratorium on fluoride."

RPR #129: #3: Modifying Crops a Risky Venture

"As things stand in Canada and the U.S., the precautionary principle has been abandoned and GM [genetically modified] crops can be marketed as long as the producing company asserts there is no harm. As scientists are not looking for harm, none is being found."

RPR #129: #4: Nokia Pays Heed To Greenpeace

In the latest Greenpeace report Nokia has lost its leadership. But it has also been praised for it embrace of the precautionary principle, its chemicals management, its timeline for phaseout of vinyl and brominated flame retardants, and its individual producer responsibility.

RPR #129: #5: Scientists, Politicians Aim To Tackle Drugs in the Water Supply

"This is where things get a little sticky," says Metcalfe. "A lot of research on risk assessment and levels in drinking water is just being done." However, the "precautionary principle suggests we must do everything we can to reduce these chemicals in drinking water."

RPR #129: #6: Shark Tourists 'Are Putting Lives in Jeopardy'

Craig Bovim, who survived a great white attack five years ago, said that the precautionary principle should apply. "It's common sense that people shouldn't be baiting and teasing a very dangerous animal in proximity to humans," he said.

RPR #129: #7: Endless Detention

Does a precautionary approach to terrorism mean we must abandon the principles of civilized behavior that were established in the year 1215 in the Magna Carta? A libertarian perspective on the United States of America's abandonment of habeas corpus.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #128 (February 6, 2008):

RPR #128: #1: Workers Harmed by Inhaling a Mist of Pig Brains. Who Knew?

This is a test. In this story, please identify the moment when the precautionary principle was first invoked, and then consider when it should have been first invoked.

RPR #128: #2: Pesticides Linked To Childhood Cancer, Local Physician Says

"The province should invoke the precautionary principle and ban cosmetic pesticides, a local physician urged the standing committee on environment Thursday."

RPR #128: #3: PBDE: The Health Costs of Fire Safety

There is a price living organisms pay for the fire safety flame retardants provide. The precautionary principle warrants more investigation into the use of flame retardants. While the chance of a fire is slim, the chance of exposure to PBDEs is much greater.

RPR #128: #4: Chemicals in Cosmetics Concern Some Consumers

Professor Bonnie Spanier is pushing for governments to adopt the precautionary principle when it comes to chemicals, essentially preventing their use in personal products until proven safe.

RPR #128: #5: George Mason University Hosts Global Warming Teach-in

"There's something in environmental science and medicine called the precautionary principle, [which] says that basically if there's any chance that not acting will cause disaster, it is morally required for you to act. And, that is where I believe we stand as a university," Storm said.

RPR #128: #6: Face To Face with Toy Safety: Understanding An Unexpected Threat

"The European Union, the state of California, and the city of San Francisco have banned 6 phthalates from toys largely on a precautionary basis."

RPR #128: #7: Food Politics, Half-baked

"What are the limits of modern society's precautionary principle? In other words, knowing that it is impossible to prove a negative, when should a society agree to accept a technology with proven benefits and potential dangers?"

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #127 (January 30, 2008):

RPR #127: #1: Small U.S. Town Takes Up Safer Cosmetics Campaign

A grass-roots campaign in Belmont, Mass. is urging consumers to adopt the precautionary principle until cosmetics containing potentially dangerous chemicals are labeled as such on the packaging.

RPR #127: #2: The Poisoning of Beverly Hills High

"There are these toxic chemicals being spewed onto the campus of Beverly Hills High School; nobody can exactly prove those toxic chemicals are causing those kids to get sick, and therefore it gives them a free pass."

RPR #127: #3: Yukon's Big 'No' To Genetically Engineered (GE) Crops

The patenting of our food supply through biotechnology could be suggested as one of the greatest systems of control ever devised. There are, however, community-led alternatives: GE-Free Zones.

RPR #127: #4: Spotlight: How Safe Is Cloned Meat?

If you found that the steak on your plate and that glass of milk are from a cloned animal, would you eat that juicy red steak and drink the milk? There is an ongoing debate between ethical and commercial interests when it comes to animal cloning.

RPR #127: #5: E.U. Energy Directive Includes Controversial Biofuels Target

Many "second-generation" biofuel technologies may prove highly controversial because they include techniques to genetically modify trees and algae, perhaps abandoning the precautionary principle as a basis for such research.

RPR #127: #6: Celebrations After Mobile Phone Tower Plan Is Withdrawn

"The main reason that we opposed this application is that no one is quite sure about the effects that mobile phone masts [towers] have on health."

RPR #127: #7: African Superbugs To the Rescue

When (or whether) to release a genetically modified mosquito into the environment of Africa, in hopes of ending the scourge of malaria, is a complicated question. This author takes it as an opportunity to bash precautionary thinking, offering the argument of modern "conservatives," which boils down to, "Just do it."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #126 (January 23, 2008):

RPR #126: #1: Tenth Anniversary of the Wingspread Statement on Precaution

In just 10 years, activists around the country have taken the simple idea of "taking action to prevent harm" and made it policy in various jurisdictions. They have taken seriously the idea of finding alternatives to damaging technologies. They have discovered ways to reverse the burden of proof and make polluters pay. And they have insisted that, as affected stakeholders, they must have a voice in decisions.

RPR #126: #2: Largest U.S. Organic Producer's Co-op Opposes Animal Cloning

"We already know that cloning adversely affects animal health in areas such as birth defects, abnormal growth, and lack of genetic diversity. The FDA should instead follow a precautionary principle, to err on the side of caution, especially in issues related to human and environmental health, as well as animal husbandry."

RPR #126: #3: Closing the Barn Door After the Cows Have Gotten Out

Precaution writ large: "I will not be eating cloned meat. The reason has nothing to do with my personal health or safety. I think the clearest way to understand the problem with cloning is to consider a broader question: Who benefits from it? The real beneficiaries are the nation's large meatpacking companies -- the kind that would like it best if chickens grew in the shape of nuggets."

RPR #126: #4: An Ocean Apart on GM Foods

Canadians express reticence about GM animals, fish and agricultural products, with a greater proportion surveyed believing this development will make life worse rather than better.

RPR #126: #5: Too Much Caffeine Raises Risk of Miscarriage

"I think the point about pregnancy in general is: the precautionary principle makes sense, but there's a difference between caution and hysteria," said Gideon Koren, director of the Motherisk Program at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

RPR #126: #6: We Want Change Candidates, but Are We Willing To Change?

"We don't have to worry all the time, we just have to be idealistic and practice the freedom of restraint and the precautionary principle."

RPR #126: #7: Mugged by Legality?

Silly me. I thought conservatives were people who wanted to conserve Creation, to pass it along to their grandchildren no worse than they found it. I guess I was wrong. This fellow Gaffney says he's a conservative but also he says the precautionary principle -- which is intended to help people protect the things they love -- is only for Luddites, who oppose progress. I guess it depends on your idea of progress. -- P.M.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #125 (January 16, 2008):

RPR #125: #1: Considering Knowledge's Limits for Tomorrow's Sake

Both science and the economists are wrong if either imagines that judicious prudence originates in their perspective fields of understanding. The precautionary principle isn't a new idea. It is a natural element of human free will.

RPR #125: #2: French Govt Move To Ban Monsanto GMO Draws Fire

"(The decision) means simply that when the precautionary principle is at stake I will make the political choice to put our country at the front of the debate on the environment," French President Sarkozy said in announcing the ban on Monsanto's genetically modified corn.

RPR #125: #3: Food from Clones Safe, E.U. Draft Says

"It remains unclear, however, whether the European Union will ultimately approve the sale of cloned products... Unlike in the United States, such decisions in Europe must incorporate social and ethical factors. And the European public broadly supports the 'precautionary principle,' which calls for society to err on the side of caution when risks are uncertain."

RPR #125: #4: Federal Agency OKs Cloned Food

FDA tentatively ruled in 2006 that products from cloned animals, like meat and milk, are no different than those from naturally bred adult animals, calling cloning "a more advanced form of" breeding technologies already widely used in the cattle industry.

RPR #125: #5: Green Clorox

"Also I'd look to see whether Clorox put any money into the Chlorine Chemistry Council, an industry group that formed to prevent any efforts to apply the precautionary principle to chlorine products... but, oh, there I go again, not being happy enough."

RPR #125: #6: Coca-Cola Ally Recommends Bottling Plant Closure in India

"The Coca-Cola company is part of the UN Global Compact and as a result, it has agreed to uphold the precautionary principle," Srivastava continued. "The Coca-Cola company must apply the precautionary principle and cease its operations in water stressed areas as well as areas with excessive pollution around Coca-Cola plants in India."

RPR #125: #7: What a Fearful World Needs

In this long, rambling article we find the precautionary principle offered as evidence that people have lost hope. To us, it is just the opposite: the worldwide advance of the precautionary principle is one of the most hopeful signs of the past 20 years. If the glass half empty or half full?

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #124 (January 9, 2008):

RPR #124: #1: Regulation vs. Precaution at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant

When we have a perfectly good strategy for dealing with dangerous technology (the precautionary principle), why don't otherwise sane elected representatives, senators, and governors invoke it?

RPR #124: #2: Common Sense and Science Say Cut the Fertilizer

"The rationale [for the precautionary principle] is that modern technologies and human activities can inflict long-term, global-scale environmental damage and that conclusive scientific evidence of such damage may be available too late to avert it."

RPR #124: #3: Op-Ed: Shut Down the Zoo

The case might be made that zoos can serve as genetic incubators in the face of widespread habitat destruction. But the city's precautionary principle, like the Hippocratic oath, should prevail on us to do no harm in seeking to prevent extinction.

RPR #124: #4: Military Mindfields

"Mind modification technologies are 'changing so rapidly that the science is being formed faster than the applications can be fully recognized.' Considering the enormous potential of these tools to help liberate the mind or control it at a level beyond anything previously known, the U.S. public should demand to have a rigorous 'precautionary principle' put in place."

RPR #124: #5: Interview: Gordon Brown on the Terror Threat To Britain

The precautionary principle is increasingly being invoked to curb civil liberties, start pre-emptive wars, torture suspects, and hold people incommunicado in secret prisons for years without formal charges. The purpose of precaution is to protect the things we value and cherish. If you value and cherish war and torture and clandestine prisons then it is logical to invoke precaution to justify them.

RPR #124: #6: Banning the (New) Lightbulb

Once again we find a critic of the precautionary principle distorting it in order to bash it: "The precautionary principle dictates that in the face of possible danger to human health, even in the absence of complete proof of that danger, it is best not to permit the hazard until its safety (rather than its danger) is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt." Such distortions are unethical, but the money is good.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #123 (January 2, 2008):

RPR #123: #1: Does the Future Need a Legal Guardian?

Some environmental and legal scholars are proposing that governments at various levels should appoint a "legal guardian of future generations" to consider the impact of policy choices on citizens yet unborn.

RPR #123: #2: How Safe Are Cell Phones?

Newsweek: More Americans are giving up their landlines for cell phones, but new research indicates that there may be health risks associated with long-term wireless use. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends minimizing any potential hazard by using hands-free devices and keeping cell-phone talk to a minimum.

RPR #123: #3: Facing the Facts About Climate Change

It may be a little ironic but the capitalists of today have much in common with the Marxists of yesterday. Both look upon the future as an endless period of inevitable growth. Likewise, both see the environment as an exploitable resource, and have an unwavering faith in the virtue of technological progress. Consequently, both are of the belief that nothing must stand in the way of this inevitable progress -- including the environment.

RPR #123: #4: No Room for Black Sheep in Organic Food and Farming

"As a new element, the organic farming principle of caution will be incorporated directly into the new Organic Farming Act [in Denmark]."

RPR #123: #5: Editorial: Mr President, Stop the Mabira Games

The precautionary principle which governs the exploitation of natural resources like forests, was developed following the 1982 World Charter for Nature which provides in its principle 11(b) that activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be preceded by an exhaustive examination.... Studies carried out so far clearly show that the proposed destruction of Mabira forest shall spell doom for Uganda.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #122 (December 26, 2007):

RPR #122: #1: Both Sides Cite Science To Address Genetically Altered Corn

Science does not provide a definitive answer to the question of safety. However, having reviewed the science, insurance companies have been unwilling to insure the planting of genetically-engineered Bt corn because the risks to people and the environment are too uncertain.

RPR #122: #2: Editorial: Target's PVC Shift Unfair, Irreversible

This is another victory for the precautionary principle -- simply said, it's the idea that in case of scientific uncertainty, society should err on the side of caution.

RPR #122: #3: Newt Gingrich Embraces Precaution for Global Warming

In "A Contract With the Earth," Mr. Gingrich, with his co-author Terry L. Maple, has written a manifesto challenging conservatives not just to grudgingly accept, but to embrace, the idea that a healthy environment is necessary for a healthy democracy and economy. The book invokes concepts like the precautionary principles that are anathema to many in Mr. Gingrich's party.

RPR #122: #4: Climate Change Tests Korea's Adaptability

In South Korea, the Ministry of Environment has adopted and tried to implement four basic environmental principles -- the precautionary principle, the receptor-centered approach, prioritizing protection of the vulnerable and sensitive groups, and guaranteeing the right to know through citizen participation and information sharing.

RPR #122: #5: Editorial: No Excuses for Toying with Public Safety

"It is regrettable that it has taken the poisoning of children to remind manufacturers and authorities, including the State Government, of how vital it is to act on the precautionary principle of safety first."

RPR #122: #6: Only a Reckless Mind Could Believe in Safety First

"Precaution is now explicitly endorsed by the UN, the EU and Tony Blair, who has claimed that "responsible science and responsible policymaking operate on the precautionary principle". From the genetic modification of crops to speed limits for trains to carbon dioxide emissions, the right policy is claimed to be the careful one. Yet the precautionary principle is not really a maxim of good policy. In fact, it is meaningless."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #121 (December 19, 2007):

RPR #121: #1: Disaster Capitalism: The New Economy of Catastrophe

Have you ever wondered why precaution is so strongly opposed in Washington and on Wall Street? An economic system that requires constant growth while resisting almost all serious attempts at environmental regulation generates a steady stream of disasters all on its own, whether military, ecological, or financial. Now the economic and political systems have learned to thrive on disasters. Under these circumstances, precaution is the enemy.

RPR #121: #2: Lloyd's of London Issues Report on Nanotechnology Risks

"The precautionary principle is now accepted to apply to the degradation of human health as well as the environment, and suggests the use of nanotechnology should be risk assessed appropriately before consumption by the public. This approach is being recommended within the EU, though the US and Japan prefer a lighter regulatory touch. In the past a vacuum of regulation has proved unhelpful to insurers. The insurance industry should lobby for clarity in this area." --Lloyd's

RPR #121: #3: The Precautionary Principle Was Ignored at Bali

Both Canada and the United States signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change, and subsequently ratified the Convention. The Framework Convention on climate Change called for the invoking of the precautionary principle which reads: "The Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimize the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures...."

RPR #121: #4: At Bali, International Youth Implore World Leaders: 'Please'

"The precautionary principle has been completely ignored. Negotiators are acting as though this is a political question, when it is instead a moral imperative. What are they doing to protect my future?"

RPR #121: #5: Fear Versus Science

"If civilization had embraced this principle in the 1800s, our lives today would be almost as nasty, brutish and short as they were 200 years ago." What were we just saying about precaution being the enemy of those who profit from disasters?

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #120 (December 12, 2007):

RPR #120: #1: 120% More Child Leukaemia Near German Nukes

"Given these massive findings at every German nuclear power station location, a radiation-linked cause is highly likely in every case. Anyone who now still talks of coincidence is making himself ridiculous," writes Dr. Angelika Claussen. "The precautionary principle enshrined in European environment law now demands that the German nuclear power stations be switched off immediately."

RPR #120: #2: Ethics Is Real Issue Behind Milk-labeling Controversy

Much of modern science is now dedicated to the work of undoing the problems caused by previous advances. By all means, it makes perfect sense to employ the "precautionary principle" when research on any aspect of food production is not conclusive -- in doing so, the countries of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all 25 members of the European Union have already banned the use of rBST/rBHG [Monsanto's growth-enhancing hormone injected into many cows in the U.S.] in the production of milk.

RPR #120: #3: Legal Appeals Exhausted, So Only Avenue Left Leads To Victoria

People of the Tsawwassen first nation in Canada opposed a proposal to place huge electric powerlines above their homes. They based their appeal on the precautionary principle because several studies have linked childhood leukemia to living near powerlines. Last week Canada's Supreme Court rejected that precautionary appeal.

RPR #120: #4: Canadian Environmental Protection Act Requires Precaution

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999 endorses the precautionary principle directly.

RPR #120: #5: The Politics of Chicken Littleism

The whole of contemporary American defense policy is precautionary. We plan for the worst; believing that on weapons proliferation, terrorism and military rivals, we are better safe than sorry. Following President Bush's preemption doctrine, the mere possibility of danger justifies preventive war and annual defense spending of over $600 billion -- more than at any point in the Cold War even if you account for inflation.

RPR #120: #6: Precaution for Obesity in Australia

The guiding principle of public health has always been primary prevention. Now public health practitioners are beginning to see that the precautionary principle is another form of primary prevention.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #119 (December 5, 2007):

RPR #119: #1: Changes Demanded After Nurses Attacked

In Canada, "The nurses' union is calling on the provincial government to write the 'precautionary principle' into the Occupational Health and Safety Act, something the late Justice Archie Campbell recommended in his SARS report earlier this year."

RPR #119: #2: President Shimon Peres: Pollution Is as Dangerous as Terror

"The information on the effects of MTBE [a gasoline additive] is not complete, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense said. However, there is no need to wait to find out how much more dangerous MTBE is than we already know, the report said. We must use the precautionary principle and not wait until irreversible health and environmental damage is done, the report concluded."

RPR #119: #3: Letters: Precautionary Approach May Be Prudent with Water

"Where unknowns abound, a more rational approach to public policy is found in "The Precautionary Principle." It urges the prevention of problems through the exercise of caution and it would direct us to impose restrictions on drilling new exempt wells now. When and if it can be shown such restrictions are no longer needed, they can be relaxed. Such caution likely will restrict short-term monetary gain but it almost certainly will minimize the costly, long term water supply problems that do in fact exist elsewhere."

RPR #119: #4: Australia's Environmental Law Requires Precautionary Decisions

Europeans are not the only people advancing the precautionary principle. Precaution is embedded in Australia's national environmental law

RPR #119: #5: Rapid Growth and Global Warming

Some time ago we recommended serious action in mitigation on the basis of the precautionary principle. "The consequences if we worry and take action about global warming will be minor if we are wrong. If we do not take action and we are wrong, the consequences will be devastating."

RPR #119: #6: Unequivocal Evidence

"The IPCC has provided enough evidence to be past the precautionary stage, but the White House is saying there's still enough uncertainty that we have to be very careful on what actions we do take. But urgent action is warranted," Auer said. "It's the precautionary principle. If there is a risk of harm to human health or the environment, you don't have to have fully established cause-and-effect relationships to take action."

RPR #119: #7: The Other Side of Global Warming Alarmism

"The application of the so-called "precautionary principle," advocated by the environmentalists, is -- conceptually -- a wrong strategy, because human civilization cannot exist in a regime of the precautionary principle."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #118 (November 28, 2007):

RPR #118: #1: EU Officials Propose Ban on Genetically Modified Corn Seeds

"The EU is within its rights to make decisions based on the 'precautionary principle' even when scientists have found no definitive evidence proving products can cause harm. The commission has the authority to be a risk manager when it comes to the safety and science of genetically modified crops."

RPR #118: #2: Sprouting EU Food Wars

French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently suspended cultivation of genetically modified crops until their safety is evaluated, saying he didn't want to contradict EU law but made the choice in line with the "precautionary principle." One environmental advocate called the pro- business president's shift "seismic."

RPR #118: #3: In Australia, GM Food Approval Causes Widespread Anger

"The lift of this moratorium completely disregards the 'precautionary principle' and the Department of Primary Industries has their heads in the sand if they think there won't be consequences of this decision, to both local farmers and to NSW's natural ecological systems."

RPR #118: #4: In British Columbia, the New Democratic Party Embraces Precaution

"The principles behind that vision go well beyond environmental concerns. They encompass social-equity stands in favour of equal opportunity for all, 'full cost accounting' to measure the real cost of everything and full support for the precautionary principle: When in doubt -- don't."

RPR #118: #5: Are Your Products Safe? You Can't Tell.

"The problem with the precautionary principle is that you have a moving target," said Tim Shestek, a chemistry council lobbyist. "You need to prove that something is safe -- safe is never really defined by anybody." Lacking testing or regulation by the U.S. government, it falls to consumers to watch out for themselves.

RPR #118: #6: Agricultural Antibiotics May Be the Cause of Super-bugs

"The European Union banned the use of antibiotics for growth promotion based on the precautionary principle. In this case, it is more scientific to simply ban the product that might be the cause of the [antibiotic] resistance, than simply do nothing because there are no precise means to measure the complex interaction between organisms and transmission of resistance in bacteria."

RPR #118: #7: Ban Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses

"Surely if the report says there is not sufficient evidence either way, we should apply the precautionary principle and err on the side of caution?"

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #117 (November 21, 2007):

RPR #117: #1: Dangerous Beauty: Taming Toxics in Everyday Cosmetics

In 2003, the European Union passed legislation outlawing the use of known carcinogens, mutagens, and teratogens in cosmetics -- more than 1,000 chemicals in all. Their regulatory approach is similar to the "precautionary principle" -- the idea that we should err on the side of caution when regulating products (or, more often, technologies) with potential for negative repercussions.

RPR #117: #2: Faster, Taller, Stronger, Smarter... Better?

Harris seems to forget that the genetic enhancements he enthusiastically welcomes will be brought to us by the same industry which (in the 1950s) sold women thalidomide 'for stronger, healthier babies' and, more recently, Vioxx for arthritic pain. When we remember that the power of man over nature is often, in practice, the power of one man to exploit another, then the maxim, "First of all, do no harm," seems eminently sensible.

RPR #117: #3: Military Nanotechnology: Preventive Arms Control

On the face of it, preventive arms control makes sense -- aiming to prevent wars rather than fight them. However, using nanotechnology for preventive arms control complicates things considerably.

RPR #117: #4: An Issue for the Center-right

The European emphasis on environmentalism is imbedded in the legal foundation of the European Union. The precautionary principle, codified in the European Union's 1992 Maastricht Treaty, states that if an action or policy may have negative effects on the environment, even if these effects are not fully scientifically proven, the burden of proof falls on the advocates of the risky action.

RPR #117: #5: Can We Save the Planet

The precautionary principle for action on climate change: 'It's like Pascal's wager. The consequences if we worry and take action about global warming will be minor if we are wrong. If we do not take action and we are wrong, the consequences will be devastating'."

RPR #117: #6: New Bid To Save Scottish Salmon

"With marine survival such a lottery, the precautionary principle must prevail -- and this means drastically reducing indiscriminate exploitation."

RPR #117: #7: Precaution Drives Innovation in European Food Industry

"Consumer demands for low-fat products, the precautionary principle in the new EC [European Commission] law to achieve the demanded high level of health protection, and market competition are all driving forces for the meat industry to launch new products."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #116 (November 14, 2007):

RPR #116: #1: Unintended Consequences

In this letter to the editor, Sharon Collinge offers a clear and compelling explanation of the precautionary principle and why it should guide the management of open space in the City of Boulder, Colorado. If more people wrote letters to the editor like this one, precaution could spread like the wind.

RPR #116: #2: Synthetic Turf Raises Safety Issues

Replacing grass with synthetic turf on playing fields may harm the environment and human health, according to recent studies, so a precautionary approach is warranted, say Doug and Patti Wood of Grassroots Environmental Education in Port Washington, N.Y.

RPR #116: #3: Verizon and Precaution in Berkeley, Calif.

The city of Berkeley, California abandons its legal commitment to the precautionary principle in order to avoid a lawsuit from an aggressive (and very large) corporation.

RPR #116: #4: Mothers-to-be 'Should Stop Drinking Altogether'

The British Public Health Minister says the UK should follow the U.S. example and adopt a precautionary approach to drinking during pregnancy: Just Don't Do It.

RPR #116: #5: Spraying Concerns

The safety of pesticide spraying should be demonstrated before exposing children and pregnant women, says Amy Beddoe, a professor of nursing.

RPR #116: #6: Yaaparra Flame Retardant -- Evaluated by Evolution

A British firm argues that its flame retardant (FR) product is manufactured from foodstuffs, so is inherently safe and needs no precautionary evaluation for potential harm. Is this so-called "biomimetic" approach a valid substitute for precautionary scientific testing?

RPR #116: #7: Genetically Engineered Organisms, Are They Safe?

"Under the precautionary principle the onus is on industry to show that these [four harmful] mechanisms are not occurring before GE [genetically engineered] plants are released to the environment." -- Dr. Lorrin Pang, Hawaii State Department of Health

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #115 (November 7, 2007):

RPR #115: #1: France Promises Green Revolution

French President Nicolas Sarkozy hinted at a shift in political culture which would see France's institutions adopt the precautionary principle when dealing with potential environmental threats -- rather than expect those opposed to a practice to prove it could be harmful, those proposing ecologically destructive decisions will need to prove there is no other choice.

RPR #115: #2: Torturers Are Now Invoking the Precautionary Principle

"Countries are accepting the 'precautionary principle' and are gathering and sharing information not only to track suspected 'terrorists' but to stop dissidents from flying and/or entering other countries, to stop activists and intellectuals at borders, to detain persons without reasonable grounds and to send persons to third countries and prisons operated by the U.S. government, where are detained indefinitely without charge, tortured and are sometimes murdered."

RPR #115: #3: Parents Worried About Toxics Get Picky About Kid Products

Whole Foods' Michaels said many parents naturally follow the "precautionary principle," erring on the side of caution to protect their children.

RPR #115: #4: Commentary: Elektro-smog and the Politics of Class Injustice

"Countries such as Switzerland, which both honor the precautionary principle and have good cell phone service, operate within standards that are 100 times more protective than our own."

RPR #115: #5: How a Mother's Love Is at Heart of Power Struggle

"We got no answers," she said. "Our community is very angry over the health implications, the serious, serious health implications of the high-voltage power lines."

RPR #115: #6: GMOs: 'Don't Mix the Precautionary Principle and Public Perception'

An interview with the executive director of EuropaBio, the trade association for biotechnooogy corporations in Europe.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #114 (October 31, 2007):

RPR #114: #1: The Reactionary Principle: Inaction for Public Health

This is the clearest introduction to the precautionary principle that we have ever seen. It contrasts the precautionary approach with the way decisions are currently made in the U.S. -- the reactionary principle.

RPR #114: #2: The Precautionary Principle: In Action for Public Health

This is another good description of the precautionary principle, though the vocabulary is academic and somewhat difficult.

RPR #114: #3: France Suspends Planting of GMO Crops

"I don't want to be in contradiction with EU laws, but I have to make a choice. In line of the precautionary principle, I wish [meaning "I declare"] that the commercial cultivation of genetically modified pesticide GMOs be suspended," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

RPR #114: #4: American Academy of Pediatrics Urges Universal Autism Screening

Because autism spectrum disorder may now be affecting nearly one in every 50 boys in the U.S., the American Academy of Pediatrics urges a precautionary approach to autism -- universal screening even when there is no reason to suspect the disorder will be detected.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #113 (October 24, 2007):

RPR #113: #1: Environmental Nasty Surprises as a Window on Precautionary Thinking

How often will nasty surprises emerge? How long will it take us to recognize and address them? How much damage will they do? How much, ultimately, is at stake? A precautionary framework for environmental decision making would respond to the urgency of such questions by attempting to shape technologies in ways calculated to make future nasty surprises less frequent and less severe.

RPR #113: #2: Health Risks for a Wired Child?

As a parent, I have a choice of waiting years for results [of studies of the health effects of electromagnetic radiation] or following the "precautionary principle" with my child who will be exposed to electromagnetic energy over a much longer period of her life than mine. Should I use "dial up" or WiFi? I know what we can live with.

RPR #113: #3: The Real GM Food Scandal

Here is more sophisticated propaganda from the biotech food industry, claiming that biotech food will solve world hunger and that opponents of biotech crops are baby-killers. This is a bogus argument. On a per capita basis, the world produces enough food to feed everyone. But two billion people are too poor to buy it in sufficient quantity. Biotech seeds will not solve that problem, and may very well make it worse. Even "golden rice" won't alleviate world hunger. Hunger is a political/social problem, not a technical problem.

RPR #113: #4: Cosmetics Firm Adopts the Precautionary Principle

We are not endorsing this company or its products but we think it is noteworthy that they have cited the precautionary principle as the basis for their decision to eliminate suspected cancer-causing chemicals from their products.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #112 (October 17, 2007):

RPR #112: #1: Devra Davis Speaks Truth To Cancer Treatment Power

In her stunning new book, The Secret History of the War on Cancer, Dr. Devra Davis calculates that there have been over 10 million preventable cancer deaths over the past 30 years, due to an obsessive, militaristic focus on "beating" the disease, rather than removing carcinogens from our environment or adopting other preventative measures.

RPR #112: #2: What's in That Stuff?

Because it embraces the precautionary principle, "the European Union is gaining the upper hand in regulating the behavior of multinational corporations, and is thus amassing more economic power."

RPR #112: #3: Nobel Peace Prize Committee Invokes the Precautionary Principle

In awarding the Nobel Peace Prize this year, the Nobel committee said, in part, "Indications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds."

RPR #112: #4: Questions and Answers on Destructive Fishing Practices

The three main requirements for any effective system to protect the biodiversity of our deep seas are (1) we need more knowledge; (2) we need a truly precautionary approach, to prevent heedless damage from continuing while we acquire that knowledge, and (3) we need appropriate tools that can be implemented quickly and effectively once such habitats have been identified.

RPR #112: #5: Injunctions Against So Called Mission Gangs Will Not Work

"If the Precautionary Principle were exercised no human being would be allowed to live in Public Housing and other sub-standard residential housing -- where crime and other mundane acts for survival are a fact of life."

RPR #112: #6: Swedish Standards Cast Doubt on 'Clean' Australian Paper Mill

"The precautionary principle applies, as persistent toxics should always be prevented if there is an alternative," he said. "Why did it not consider a chlorine-free process?"

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #111 (October 10, 2007):

RPR #111: #1: Europe Aims for Global Dominance Via Precaution, Neocons Assert

Neoconservatives are attacking the European Union for using the precautionary principle to try to dominate the world by promoting sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility. Heavens!

RPR #111: #2: Op-Ed: Reagan and the Law of the Sea

Neoconservatives rail against the Law of the Sea Treaty, which embodies a "Luddite better safe than sorry approach" to protecting the oceans and is therefore, as they see it, a "dramatic step toward world government."

RPR #111: #3: Law of the Sea Treaty Hurts U.S. Security, Neocons Say

Europe is using the Law of Sea Treaty to impose a "better safe than sorry" regulatory model for the environment that jeopardizes America's free enterprise system, according to a vocal group of neoconservatives.

RPR #111: #4: Coral Reef Health Depends on Ecosystem Management and Precaution

"From Pacific islands to the Western world, we know what is threatening our [coral] reefs and how to remedy those problems, but policy and political will are lagging behind available science," said Noah Idechong. "Policymakers often choose inactivity rather than subscribing to the precautionary principle," he said. "This approach undermines our ability to leave a sound environmental legacy for future generations."

RPR #111: #5: Op-Ed: Mercury Pollution: More Is Less?

Indiana has discovered one more way to allow coal-fired power plants to continue polluting: create a market for buying and selling the right to emit toxic mercury into the environment. The argument that carried the day in a recent public hearing was simple: protecting public health would be too costly for the polluters. No, Virginia, in Indiana the polluter does not pay.

RPR #111: #6: Australians Fight Over a Huge New Paper Mill

The Australian government will allow a paper mill to be built before tests are completed to learn whether it can meet environmental standards: "It's totally illogical. It doesn't abide by the precautionary principle. It means we could end up with a mill that doesn't meet the conditions."

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #110 (October 3, 2007):

RPR #110: #1: Analyzing Failure Beforehand

Here's a precautionary idea from the world of innovative business management: Do a pre-mortem (instead of a post-mortem) on your decisions, to try to figure out in advance what could go wrong.

RPR #110: #2: Lead-Paint Suit May Thin Burden of Proof

An important feature of the precautionary principle is shifting the burden of proof onto those engaged in potentially harmful activities, rather than requiring the public to "line up the dead bodies." This important lawsuit takes a step in the precautionary direction.

RPR #110: #3: Canada's Blood Supply 'Safe as Anywhere,' Says Agency's CEO

Both Canadian Blood Services and Hema-Quebec, its Quebec equivalent, use what's known as the precautionary principle when making decisions about blood safety issues. In essence, the precautionary principle means that when there are two or more possible courses of action, the choice should be the option that affords the greatest safety -- even in the face of small risk.

RPR #110: #4: Thimerosal Unlikely Cause of Neuropsychological Deficits

Paul A. Offitt, MD (who serves as an advisor to Merck Pharmaceutical), calls the fallout from the decision to withdraw thimerosal from vaccines a "cautionary tale:" "Although the precautionary principle assumes that there is no harm in exercising caution, the alarm caused by the removal of thimerosal from vaccines has been quite harmful," he writes. [Of course the precautionary principle assumes no such thing -- it assumes all alternatives are carefully weighed. This is just another typical attack on precaution -- distorting it in order to bash it. --RPR Editors.]

RPR #110: #5: Global Warming Hysteria or Freedom and Prosperity?

"As an author of a book about the economics of climate change, I feel obliged to say that -- based on our current knowledge -- the risk is too small and the costs of eliminating it too high. The application of the so called 'precautionary principle,' advocated by the environmentalists, is -- conceptually -- a wrong strategy.... I really do see environmentalism as a threat to our freedom and prosperity. I see it as 'the world's key current challenge.'"

RPR #110: #6: Supes To Vote Today on Blue Angels Ban

The resolution invokes the "precautionary principle," noting that the traveling aerobatics show has resulted in the loss of 26 lives due to accidents in its 60-year history. [The resolution was voted down by San Francisco's Board of Supervisors.]

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #109 (September 26, 2007):

RPR #109: #1: 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.

RPR #109: #2: 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?"

RPR #109: #3: 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."

RPR #109: #4: 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 fields.

RPR #109: #5: 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.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #108 (September 19, 2007):

RPR #108: #1: Wild Salmon Endangered by Sea Lice from Salmon Farms

In Canada, 18 scientists have written to the Prime Minister: "We have united our voices because wild salmon are essential to life in the North Pacific and to the British Columbia economy. We feel the weight of scientific evidence is enough to enact the precautionary principle."

RPR #108: #2: Report Urges National Environmental Health Strategy for Canada

"We must adopt a preventative and precautionary approach to our future. There are safer substitutes for most, if not all, of the toxic chemicals currently being used and released into the environment."-- The David Suzuki Foundation

RPR #108: #3: GM Contamination Scandal in Germany

"The incident shows that risks linked with modified crops cannot be controlled in the long term [and] we call for a stringent application of the precautionary principle. Contamination will continue to spread unless strict controls are enforced and zero contamination of seed is the norm."

RPR #108: #4: Crisis Grips Farming as Foot-and-mouth Returns

The Scottish Government also warned, "The precautionary principle means that any animal showing unusual symptoms is reported and is then the subject of immediate and rigorous investigation by vets from the Animal Health Agency.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #107 (September 12, 2007):

RPR #107: #1: Germany Warns Citizens To Avoid Using Wi-Fi

People should avoid using Wi-Fi wherever possible because of the risks it may pose to health, the German government has said. Germany's official radiation protection body also advises its citizens to use landlines instead of mobile phones, and warns of "electrosmog" from a wide range of other everyday products, from baby monitors to electric blankets.

RPR #107: #2: Q&A: Mobile Phone Safety

A series of conflicting reports has led to suspicions that mobile phone usage and the accompanying base stations may harm health and increase the risk of cancers.

RPR #107: #3: Report Buttresses Argument Against Power Lines

A new scientific report joins others in raising serious public health concerns over long-term exposure to electromagnetic fields from high-voltage power lines.

RPR #107: #4: Danger To Children from Food and Drink Additives Is Exposed

In England, adults are being advised to check for harmful food additives by scrutinising labels, yet many sweets and cakes are sold loose without labels, as is ice cream. The move has confounded experts and health campaigners, who say the government had missed an opportunity to take a tougher line by banning the additives completely instead of placing a huge burden on parents.

RPR #107: #5: Food Alert as Every Additive Comes Under New Suspicion

The safety of every food colouring and additive is being assessed independently by the European Food Safety Authority. Food safety experts expect most of these artificial colourings to be banned or phased out within two years.

RPR #107: #6: Early Warning Ignored

The chemical known as diacetyl was identified by scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002 as the cause of a debilitating and sometimes fatal lung disease among workers in the plants where it is produced, as well as plants where it is added to popcorn. Now a popcorn consumer been reported ill.

RPR #107: #7: Reserve Ban on Mushroom Picking

A nature reserve in mid Wales is banning all visitors from picking wild mushrooms because it says some species are in decline.

Rachel's Precaution Reporter #106 (September 5, 2007):

RPR #106: #1: In Connecticut, Artificial Turf Raises Concerns

Susan Addiss, past commissioner of the state Health Department, advised the use of the "precautionary principle," which she associates with good public health practice in the face of reasonable questions about the safety of a product. "Hold off until you know more."

RPR #106: #2: In South Africa, NATO Exercises Are Called 'Inappropriate'

"Because of lack of knowledge and the fact that there have been mass strandings [of whales] caused by the use of these naval sonars, the precautionary principle should have been invoked."

RPR #106: #3: Upgrading Capitalism's Operating System

Peter Barnes's solution to the problem of corporate greed on the one hand and regulatory capture on the other is to turn the commons over to trusts. Trustees would be obliged not to maximize income from their trusts but to preserve their assets for future generations, acting on the precautionary principle rather than as risk-takers.

RPR #106: #4: Social Workers Want To Seize Baby as a Precautionary Measure

A pregnant woman has been told that her baby will be taken from her at birth because she is deemed capable of "emotional abuse", even though psychiatrists treating her say there is no evidence to suggest that she will harm her child in any way. Is this a proper use of the precautionary principle?