Keywords: precautionary principle, biotechnology, genetically modified organisms, agriculture, Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
From principle to action: applying the precautionary principle to agricultural biotechnology
The precautionary principle advises that we take measures to avoid harm to the environment and public health even when there is scientific uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of harms that may result. The principle is rapidly evolving and gaining status in national and international law. We review four key elements included in all interpretations of the precautionary principle to date. We further outline eight procedural elements required to implement the principle in specific cases: goal setting; alternatives assessment; transparent, open decision-making processes; defining parameters of harm; uncertainty analysis; shifting the burden of proof; learning and adaptation and precautionary action.