Week 6: Health & Precautionary Principle (Europe & GMOs) Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Week 6: Health & Precautionary Principle (Europe & GMOs) Deck (11)
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1

What the Traditional Regulatory Approach to regulatory risk?

Traditional Regulatory Approach: assumes safety of activities and products for commercial use unless they are proven harmful (scientifically or empirically).

2

Definition of Precautionary Principle

There are multiple definitions of PP, with no real consensus, but here's one:

Precautionary Principle:

  • If an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that it is not harmful,
  • the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking that action to prove that those perceived harms will not occur on scale envisioned
  • In PP, burden of proof shifts from opponents of activities or products to the proponents .

PP is viewed negatively in the US - seen as anti-business - called "paralyzing principle" b/c industries have burden of proof.

3

Where has Precautionary Principle been adopted successfully?

  • pharmaceutical testing
  • In Europe, PP has been rolled out in agricultural fields.
  • Early European succcess in adopting PP and applying them in ways that brought generally accepted results:
    • Germany: Reduction of mobile source pollution - Clean Air Act
    • Sweden: Environmental Protection Act
      • In these examples, there was high social concensus and low scientific uncertainty.

4

What are three assumptions underlying Risk Assessments?

  1. that humans can manage environment by deciding how much of any destructive activity the earth can safely absorb without harm (“assimilative capacity”)
  2. Once you decide capacity, we can impose limits so irreversible harm will not occur.
  3. that we know which substances and activities are harmful and which are not, or for new harms we will be alerted to danger too late

5

What are 3 main implications of Precautionary Principle?

  1. Seeking alternatives to harmful technologies
  2. goal of transparency and democracy in making decisions about technology
  3. shifting to proponents of a technology the responsibility

6

What are major objections to GMOs?

  1. environmental
    1. harm to non-target species, e.g. decline of monarch butterflies
    2. hybridization: gene transfer to non-target species
    3. ecosystem disruption
    4. biodiversity risks (instead of saving crops from one year to the next, you are buying them)
  2. economic
    1. reduced effectiveness of pesticides
    2. patent issues
  3. human health risks
    1. allerginicity
    2. antiobiotic resistance
    3. unknown effects of human health
    4. pyschosocial concerns - fear of GMOs

7

Examples of motivations for Risk Assessment

  1. Hudson River - chemical compound PCBs used as coolants in transformers. by-products dumped by GE into rivers. PCBs keeps getting re-suspended in the water column.
  2. nuclear waste
  3. municipal and industrial sewage

Generally, modern technologies that surpass human understanding so we can't predict risk.

8

When/where was the first legal use of the PP concept?

 

Reading 1: Precautionary Principles: General Definitions and Specific Applications to Genetically Modified Organisms (Lofstedt, Fischoff and Fischoff)

1969 - Swedish Environmental Protection Act

  • reversed conventional burden of proof and required industry to demonstrate safety of environmentally hazardous activities .
  • involves stringent needs analysis
  • requires industry to identify that public benefits > costs

9

What is the German translation and concept of PP?

 

Reading 1: Precautionary Principles: General Definitions and Specific Applications to Genetically Modified Organisms (Lofstedt, Fischoff and Fischoff)

In German, “precautionary principle” vorsorgunsprinzip is translated to: “forecaring principle” or "showing prior care to worry.

10

Critical Arguments Against PP

 

Reading 1: Precautionary Principles: General Definitions and Specific Applications to Genetically Modified Organisms (Lofstedt, Fischoff and Fischoff)

  • Some critics claim that PP undermines science's role in regulatory decision making
  • Some US critics claim that businesses and governments may invoke PP to protect markets from outside competition
  • Some environmental groups argue that a PP world calls for a greater NGO role, but critics argue that NGOs may not be the best group to interpret the ambiguities of PP

11

Evidence for Questionable Quality of Science to Addressing Public Concern about GMOs

 

Reading 1: Precautionary Principles: General Definitions and Specific Applications to Genetically Modified Organisms (Lofstedt, Fischoff and Fischoff)

 

 

There are many studies of impacts of GM crops, but most appear in gray lit of reports produced for industry and submitted to regulators.

A comprehensive review found only 35 peer reviewed articles of sufficient quality -- to help in a decision re. public risk of GMOs.