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Precautionary principle

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The precautionary principle is a decision-making principle which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.


The Precautionary Principle is made up of 4 parts:

  1. People have a duty to take anticipatory action to prevent harm.
  2. The burden of proof of harmlessness of a new technology, process, activity, or chemical lies with the proponents, not with the general public.
  3. Before using a new technology, process, or chemical, or starting a new activity, people have an obligation to examine “a full range of alternatives” including the alternative of doing nothing.
  4. Decisions applying the precautionary principle must be “open, informed, and democratic” and “must include affected parties.”

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