Woolcock, Stephen. (2002) The Precautionary Principle in the EU & Its Impact on International Trade Relations. CEPS Working Document No. 186, October 2002. [Working Paper]
[From the Abstract]. Although elements of precaution were used in the environmental regulation of various countries in the 1970s, including the United States, it has been the European Union that has emerged as the main proponent of the precautionary principle, both in European regulatory policy and in international agreements. The precautionary principle must be considered as an important and enduring feature of European and increasingly international policies aimed at dealing with the risk to the environment as well as human, plant and animal health in instances where the level of risk is not insignificant and where there is scientific uncertainty. Developed and applied originally in the field of environmental regulation, the precautionary principle has subsequently found application in other related policy fields such as human health, and is becoming an acceptable feature of – if not customary – international law. Rightly or wrongly, the precautionary principle is also wrapped up in the current critique of "globalisation", because it promises wider, more democratic participation in decision-making concerning issues of central importance to the sustainability and risks associated with economic and technological development. Precaution provides those sceptical of established policy-making procedures with a case for opening the policy process to wider participation and greater transparency and democratic accountability. The central issue with regard to the EU’s application of the precautionary principle is whether it will form the basis for balanced policy that promotes sustainability and facilitates the growth of trade and investment. Or will it be used in an arbitrary fashion and simply wheeled out to justify controls on trade or investment that are dictated by commercial or political expediency?
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