Precautionary Principle

“The precautionary principle or precautionary approach to risk management states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking action.”


The first time I learned about the precautionary principle was in 1994 while I was studying environmental management in the UK.  Placing the burden of  “first, do no harm” on governments and corporations in the context of the health of the planet and our public health lessens the burden on the individual.  As in the case of GMO’s, for example, Europe has not dived in head first, and the population in Europe can also be a bit less vigilant as a result (although they do come out with studies showing the detrimental effects of GMO’s — just to keep up the risk awareness).

In the US, unfortunately for us, the responsibility of taking precautions about what goes into our bodies and our environment becomes more an individual responsibility, made even worse/scarier by the lack of labeling/information.  This leaves the individual in the unfortunate position of having to assume that anything not labeled organic may have ingredients that have GMO’s included.

I give this GMO example only as one example.  The precautionary principle/approach can be used for anything that goes into our bodies (google “precautionary approach and vaccines” to read other examples).

This could drive anyone crazy the more you think about it.  Even herbs need to be approached with some precautions (however, at least you can point to hundreds of years of traditional uses in multiple cultures — but you still need to understand the contexts of these uses and the new research that is out there).  Having said that, it’s still worth approaching purchasing your food, lotions, shampoos, with the familiar concept of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Knowing there are chemicals in non-organic food, why not buy organic?  Same goes for lotions, shampoos, cleaning products.

Who knows, maybe some of those itchy rashes will start to go away.  Once you start to think this way, it doesn’t have to be “obsessive” — it just becomes a way of making safer decisions for you and your family.

And perhaps, someday, our government will also approach passing more policies with some precaution in mind.  Meanwhile, develop your criteria (eg: organic, local, other countries still use it (eg; google gardisil and Japan), etc.), and stick with it as much as you can and still have fun out there……


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