Keywords: precautionary principle, environmental policy, environmental law, risk analysis
Biotechnology and the precautionary principle: right question, wrong answer
The precautionary principle focuses attention on the central issue in environmental policy - how can we prevent harm to human health and the environment before it occurs, while recognising the inherent uncertainty in predicting risks? Despite focusing on the right question, the precautionary principle fails to provide a workable answer. The precautionary principle is overly ambiguous, and any attempt to further refine the precautionary principle would require resolving issues that would deprive the principle of much of its support. Because of its irreducible ambiguity, the precautionary principle is prone to be applied in an arbitrary manner. As such, it cannot provide a legally sustainable decision making standard.