EU Commissioner Byrne: No Zero Risk Society
In a recent seminar on public risk perception, the EU's Health and Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne made a revealing statement. He told us that there is no such thing as a zero risk society.
While I agree with what he says, I find it interesting that this statement comes at a time when the EU is discussing controls of toxic chemicals and when there is pressure from the chemical industry to water-down the proposed controls.
In contrast, when the EU was quietly passing restrictions to the availability of vitamins and minerals in food supplements just two years ago, the talk was different: "... the most important aim of the Directive is to ensure a high level of protection for the consumer", said Byrne on that occasion. The directive will be limiting availability of supplements based on alleged reasons of "consumer protection". No safety issues on vitamins or on natural products in general have been raised with any degree of seriousness, yet the controls were slapped on without mercy, benefiting ultimately the multinational chemical/pharmaceutical manufacturers.
Double talk? Double standard?
Now here is the recent statement from Commissioner Byrne who tells us we must face the risks [of chemicals] because otherwise, "there is a very real danger that an “anti-science” agenda may take root in European society". Just wondering why sometimes it is ok to have a risk and other times it is not...
There is no zero risk society
Science has an important role in shaping public attitude to risk
Despite the development of a very important corpus of EU and national legislation to protect EU citizens against currently identified risks, several studies show that contradictory opinions about perceived risks remain important among national stakeholders groups.“Unfortunately, because of the inconsistencies and contradictions in how the public perceives risk, all our efforts may not be enough. If we fail to make progress [in understanding risk perception], there is a very real danger that an “anti-science” agenda may take root in European society – leading to a society hampered and restricted by a collective neurosis, lacking in self confidence, resistant to innovation and unwilling to embrace change. We must not be deluded by the sometimes seductive, yet false, notion of a zero risk society,” said Commissioner Byrne.
Mr. Arias Cañete told the conference; “In the developed world, the taking of risk is not only an intrinsic condition of life, it is also essential to economic and social development. The key is to know what level of risk we can accept."
See also related articles:
According to this article in 'Alive', ill feeling towards the EU could 'reach the point where it threatens the EU itself'. No wonder with the kind of legislation that is being introduced, quite apart from whether the legislators and the Commission believe they are acting in defense of consumer choice and safety...
posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Wednesday March 31 2004
updated on Tuesday December 21 2010
URL of this article: