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Environmental Law Reporter

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A more substantive precautionary principle of international law is evolving as new treaties articulate new measures of precaution in different contexts. Although there is considerable controversy over how to articulate or define a precautionary "principle" of law, the goal is to ensure that the mere lack of scientific knowledge about risks cannot justify a failure to take appropriate precautions. Where we have sufficient evidence of risk, we often take precautions, despite a lack of certainty about those risks. The question arises, however, what the difference is between adopting a precautionary principle and merely taking precautions. Put another way, what is to be gained by adopting a precautionary principle at all, as compared to merely taking precautions? This Article explores that question by using the example of the food safety regulation in the United States. My principal conclusion is that although precautionary measures for achieving food safety in the United States are some of the oldest and most successful in the world, eve such measures fall short when they are evaluated from the unifying perspective of the precautionary principle.


"Copyright© 2001, Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC, Reprinted with permission from ELI.



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