The precautionary principle is just a coherent statement of what really is just common sense: Faced with reasonable suspicion of harm, the precautionary approach urges a full evaluation of available alternatives for the purpose of preventing or minimizing harm. Instead of asking the basic risk-assessment question—”How much harm is allowable?”—the precautionary approach asks, “How little harm is possible?”
Here is the essence of the Precautionary Principle:
We believe there is compelling evidence that damage to humans and the worldwide environment is of such magnitude and seriousness that new principles for conducting human activities are necessary.
While we realize that human activities may involve hazards, people must proceed more carefully than has been the case in recent history. Corporations, government entities, organizations, communities, scientists and other individuals must adopt a precautionary approach to all human endeavors.
Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle: When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.
In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.
The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.
You can find the original statement of the precautionary principle here: Wingspread Statement
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References [updated December 2014] [Citations that include a filename (ending in .pdf) indicate that we have the PDF of that study – contact Peter Crownfield for more information] Altieri, M. “Enhanced Pest Management Through Soil Health: Toward a Belowground Habitat Management … more