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:
- People have a duty to take anticipatory action to prevent harm.
- The burden of proof of harmlessness of a new technology, process, activity, or chemical lies with the proponents, not with the general public.
- 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.
- Decisions applying the precautionary principle must be “open, informed, and democratic” and “must include affected parties.”