Share The Wealth by Chris Gupta
May 20, 2004

A precautionary tale - US big business is furious

Further to an earlier post E.U. Waters Down Chemical Safety Testing Plan the following is a little more optimistic, however, given the dirty tactics of business - vigilance and safeguarding of our rights will need to remain in the forefront.

Chris Gupta

A precautionary tale

The EU plans new regulations for scientific risk-taking, based on the principle of sustainable development. US big business is furious

Jeremy Rifkin
Wednesday May 12, 2004

The Guardian

Chances are that most people have never heard of "the precautionary principle". This relatively new term is the most radical idea for rethinking humanity's relationship to the natural world since the 18th-century European Enlightenment. Its potential impact is already being felt within the business community and the halls of government, with profound implications for all of us.

Recently, a congressional committee released emails between the United States and Europe about the future of scientific research, technology innovation and entrepreneurial risk-taking. At issue is a proposed EU directive that would force companies to prove chemical products introduced into the marketplace are safe before being granted permission to market them. Existing laws allow most chemical-based products to be introduced without prior assurances by the company of their safety. The result is that 99% of the total chemicals sold in Europe have not passed through any environmental and health testing review process.

Under the proposed EU standards, companies would be required to register and test for the safety of more than 30,000 chemicals at an estimated cost of nearly €6bn (£4bn) to the industry. The new proposed standard is called Reach - registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals.

The American chemical industry is furious. The US says the EU chemical regulations threaten the export of over $20bn in chemicals the US sells to Europe each year. According to the released White House and state department emails, the US government, in collaboration with the American chemical industry, has been putting unprecedented pressure on key European governments to waylay the proposed regulations. Even secretary of state Colin Powell has intervened. US strong-arm tactics appear to have paid off. Tony Blair, Gerhard Schrder and Jacques Chirac have all urged the European commission to water the proposed Reach regulations and have partially succeeded. When the final proposal was introduced last October, it was a much weaker version of the original legislation.

What's at stake here goes far beyond the chemical industry. The EU is attempting to establish a radical new approach to science and technology based on the principle of sustainable development and global stewardship of the Earth's environment.

In November 2002, the EU commission adopted a communication on the use of what it calls the "precautionary principle" in the regulation of science and technology innovation and the introduction of new products into the marketplace. The precautionary principle is designed to allow government authorities to respond pre-emptively, as well as after damage is inflicted, with a lower threshold of scientific certainty than has been the rule of thumb in the past. "Scientific certainty" has been tempered by the notion of "reasonable grounds for concern". The precautionary principle gives government the flexibility to respond to events in real time, so that potential adverse impacts can be forestalled or reduced while the suspected causes of the harm are being evaluated.

At the heart of the precautionary principle is a radical divergence in the way Europe has come to perceive risks compared to the US. In Europe, intellectuals are increasingly debating the question of the great shift from a risk-taking age to a risk-prevention era. That debate is virtually non-existent among American intellectuals. Risks of all kinds are now global in scale, open-ended in duration, incalculable in their consequences, and not compensational. Acid rain, the tear in the Earth's ozone layer, and the spread of virtual and biological viruses, are among the new genre of man-made threats. No one can escape their potential effects. When everyone is vulnerable, and all can be lost, then traditional notions of calculating and pooling risks become virtually meaningless. This is what European academics call a risk society.

The EU hopes that by integrating the precautionary principle into international treaties and multilateral agreements, it will become the unchallenged standard by which governments oversee and regulate science and technology. While the US has integrated aspects of the precautionary principle into some of its environmental regulations, for the most part its standards are far more lax then the EU's, though better than many countries. But the US views Europe's tightening regulatory regime as a noose around US exports and is determined to thwart its efforts. America's National Foreign Trade Council warned that the EU's invocation of the precautionary principle "has effectively banned US and other non-EU exports of products deemed hazardous" and stifled scientific and industrial innovation.

The precautionary principle is deeply at odds with the traditional Enlightenment idea about science. Risk taking is at the heart of modern science. To attempt to put limits on scientific pursuits, in lieu of greater certainty about their potential impacts on the environment, is, some scientists say, tantamount to squelching our very notion of progress.

The precautionary principle says, in effect, that because the stakes are so high, we have to weigh even the most dramatic benefits against the prospects of even more destructive consequences. The old Enlightenment science is too primitive to address a world where the bar for risk has been raised to the threshold of possible extinction itself. When the whole world is at risk because of the scale of human intervention, then a new scientific approach is required that takes the whole world into consideration.

Jeremy Rifkin is the author of The Biotech Century

See also: San Francisco enacts Precautionary Principal


posted by Chris Gupta on Thursday May 20 2004
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

URL of this article:



Related Articles

Artificial Water Fluoridation: Off To A Poor Start / Fluoride Injures The Newborn
Please watch this short 5 minute video: Little Things Matter: The Impact of Toxins on the Developing Brain Toxins such as Arsenic, Lead, Mercury, Aluminum and other known and unknown chemicals, that are often above the legal limits, are deliberately added to our water to manage the disposal of toxic industrial waste chemicals under the pretense of "safe and effective" for water fluoridation mantra.Knowing and acting on the above should... [read more]
December 30, 2014 - Chris Gupta

Drinking Water Fluoridation is Genotoxic & Teratogenic
This paper by Prof. Joe Cummins is a very important 5 minute delegation made to London Ontario Canada "Civic Works Committee" public participation meeting on January 25, 2012 on fluoride*. While a bit technical it is short and easy to grasp. A must read as it goes to the heart of the matter regarding the well established toxicity of fluoride which is well in all scientific circles even before water... [read more]
February 06, 2012 - Chris Gupta

Democracy At Work? - PPM On Fluoride
Here is a commentary on the recent (Jan, 25th, 2011) Public Participation Meeting (PPM) on Fluoride in the City of London, Ontario. The meeting started with a strong pro fluoride stance form the City engineer. His lack of knowledge on chemistry of the toxic wastes used to fluoridate water could embarrass even a high school student never mind his own profession. He blatantly violated his "duty to public welfare" as... [read more]
January 29, 2012 - Chris Gupta



Readers' Comments

Security code:

Please enter the security code displayed on the above grid

Due to our anti-spamming policy the comments you are posting will show up online within few hours from the posting time.




A Person Is Only As Valuable As She Can Be Of Help To Others


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

These articles are brought to you strictly for educational and informational purposes.
Be sure to consult your health practitioner of choice prior to any specific use of any of the non drug device or food based medicinal products referenced herein.



Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz



Most Popular Articles

Bad News About Statin Drugs

Cod Liver Oil - Number One Superfood

Statin Drugs & Memory Loss

Cold remedies that really work.- update




Recent articles
Drinking Water Fluoridation is Genotoxic & Teratogenic

Democracy At Work? - PPM On Fluoride

"Evidence Be Damned...Patient Outcome Is Irrelevant" - From Helke

Why Remove Fluoride From Phosphate Rock To Make Fertilizer

FOFI Codex Meeting Report On Labelling May 9 - 13, 2011

Misconduct Of Health Canada Bureaucrats

Archive of all articles on this site



Most recent comments

Cold remedies that really work.- update

Why Doctors Don't Recommend More The Use Of Coq10?

Re: Dispelling the Night-Time Frequent Urination

Health via Meditation/Stress Reduction

Build a Low cost & simple Magnetic Pulser



Candida International

What Does MHRA Stand For??

Bono and Bush Party without Koch: AIDS Industry Makes a Mockery of Medical Science

Profit as Usual and to Hell with the Risks: Media Urge that Young Girls Receive Mandatory Cervical Cancer Vaccine


Health Supreme

Multiple sclerosis is Lyme disease: Anatomy of a cover-up

Chromotherapy in Cancer

Inclined Bed Therapy: Tilt your bed for healthful sleep


Evolving Collective Intelligence

Let Us Please Frame Collective Intelligence As Big As It Is

Reflections on the evolution of choice and collective intelligence

Whole System Learning and Evolution -- and the New Journalism

Gathering storms of unwanted change

Protect Sources or Not? - More Complex than It Seems



Islanda, quando il popolo sconfigge l'economia globale.

Il Giorno Fuori dal Tempo, Il significato energetico del 25 luglio

Rinaldo Lampis: L'uso Cosciente delle Energie

Attivazione nei Colli Euganei (PD) della Piramide di Luce

Contatti con gli Abitanti Invisibili della Natura


Diary of a Knowledge Broker

Giving It Away, Making Money

Greenhouses That Change the World

Cycles of Communication and Collaboration

What Is an "Integrated Solution"?

Thoughts about Value-Add


Best sellers from