Thomas R. O'Donnell

Posts Tagged ‘European Union’

Paper: Too much precaution stilts innovation, could perpetuate hunger

In Uncategorized on July 14, 2013 at 6:08 pm
Caution tape

Photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker via photopin cc

I’m a pretty careful guy. I wear my seatbelt, floss my teeth, and look both ways before crossing the street. These precautions keep me safe and healthy.

Precautions are generally prudent, wise and forward-looking. We all want to be safe as possible. Why risk a bad outcome?

This is a simple way to consider the Precautionary Principle, an approach regulators often use to consider new technology. It’s best, they say, to be careful, lest unexpected, unwanted consequences crop up. What can be wrong with that?

Plenty, a new report from an Ames-based agricultural policy think tank says. Citing a long string of academic papers and case studies, it blasts misapplication of the Precautionary Principle for blocking technology like genetic engineering of grains while ignoring the costs: less food for a growing population, less income for rural farmers and greater environmental harm.

The principle is ambiguous, arbitrarily applied, and biased against new technologies, the paper says, and its consequences have been mostly negative. It ignores technology’s many benefits while focusing on its risks, no matter how small.

“The [principle] has been tried but has failed as a risk management strategy,” the authors say. “It is time to move beyond it” – a conclusion some environmentalists are sure to challenge.

Read the rest of this entry »

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