Precautionary Principle and Ecosystem Valuation
Nancy Myers argues that since the Precautionary Principle makes some sense of uncertainty it has gained global acceptance as being essential to environmental policy. The author believes that the Precautionary Principle is a sound approach to risk analysis. On the other hand, Bernard Goldstein believes that even though the principle can be viable, it risks displacing scientific risk assessment to the detriment of toxicology, social justice, and public health.
Myers argues that when the lives of billions of people are at stake, individuals and governments need to act on the prevailing clues such as increase in birth defects and other malignancies to prevent as much harm as possible, despite imperfect knowledge. Thus, the importance of the Precautionary Principle.
She further argues that quantitative risk assessment has become part of the problem instead of a solution to the enforcement of environmental regulations. Quantitative risk assessment was developed as a means of proving that certain products were dangerous and could lead to a certain number of deaths. Instead, the risk assessment is continuously being used as a loophole for the propagation of dangerous consumer products (Eaton, 2010).
The process is now being used to successfully prove that certain products are not dangerous owing to the lack of complete scientific information on the dangers of the product. Now, commercial interests demand that harm from their products needs to be proven through scientific means. These assessments usually address a limited number of potential threats and ignore social, environmental, and cultural factors.
On the other hand, Bernard Goldstein believes that toxicology should be the primary prevention technique rather than the Precautionary Principle. Toxicology, according to the author has led to industries focusing on new chemical development and the marketing of less harmful products. He mentions the Ames test that makes it easier for chemical industries to remove potentially harmful chemicals from their manufacturing processes.
The author believes that the proponents of the Precautionary Principle do not understand the importance of toxicology in the development of primary precautionary approaches through safety assessment. He contends that the principle has limited the research into less harmful products as well as the use of these materials. Due to this principle, there is no incentive to use the least toxic agent. In addition, the chemicals that are not outlawed by the principle could prove more dangerous than those that are outlawed. Toxicology allows us to study every material with the aim of understanding the dangers that they pose. Therefore, the Precautionary Principle has resulted in less research of materials that are presumed safe under the principle (Eaton, 2010).
I agree with Nancy Myers because I do not think that scientific risk assessment procedures guarantee the right results. The politicians are fueled with commercial interests in advocating for risk assessment to the point that the society needs to prove that a product can be harmful. Even when a product is deemed harmful, the politicians and commercial enterprises will still push for its adoption by proving that it has a low level of potential to cause harm.
Eaton, T.A. (2010). Taking Sides: Clashing views on environmental issues. Boston, MA: Mc-Graw Hill.