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Record information and status
Record ID
Date of creation
2012-05-03 16:17 UTC (dina.abdelhakim@cbd.int)
Date of last update
2012-05-07 18:37 UTC (andrew.bowers@cbd.int)
Date of publication
2012-05-07 18:37 UTC (andrew.bowers@cbd.int)

General Information
The Precautionary Principle in Environmental Science
David Kriebel, Joel Tickner, Paul Epstein, John Lemons, Richard Levins, Edward L. Loechler, Margaret Quinn, Ruthann Rudel, Ted Schettler, and Michael Stoto
Author’s contact information
Correspondence to D. Kriebel
Lowell Center for Sustainable Production
University of Massachusetts Lowell
1 University Avenue, Lowel
MA 01854 USA.

Telephone: (978) 934-3250.
Fax:(978) 452-5711.

E-mail: David_Kriebel@uml.edu
  • English
Publication date
Summary, abstract or table of contents

Environmental scientists play a key role in society's responses to environmental problems, and many of the studies they perform are intended ultimately to affect policy. The precautionary principle, proposed as a new guideline in environmental decision making, has four central components: taking preventive action in the face of uncertainty; shifting the burden of proof to the proponents of an activity; exploring a wide range of alternatives to possibly harmful actions; and increasing public participation in decision making. In this paper we examine the implications of the precautionary principle for environmental scientists, whose work often involves studying highly complex, poorly understood systems, while at the same time facing conflicting pressures from those who seek to balance economic growth and environmental protection. In this complicated and contested terrain, it is useful to examine the methodologies of science and to consider ways that, without compromising integrity and objectivity, research can be more or less helpful to those who would act with precaution. We argue that a shift to more precautionary policies creates opportunities and challenges for scientists to think differently about the ways they conduct studies and communicate results. There is a complicated feedback relation between the discoveries of science and the setting of policy. While maintaining their objectivity and focus on understanding the world, environmental scientists should be aware of the policy uses of their work and of their social responsibility to do science that protects human health and the environment. The precautionary principle highlights this tight, challenging linkage between science and policy.
Thematic areas
  • Biosafety policy and regulation
    • Precautionary approach (Principle 15 of Rio Declaration)
  • Scientific and technical issues
    • Risk assessment
Background material to the “Guidance on risk assessment of living modified organisms”
Is this document is recommend as background material for the “Guidance on Risk Assessment of Living Modified Organisms”
Section(s) of the “Guidance on Risk Assessment of Living Modified Organisms” this background material is relevant
Additional Information
Type of resource
  • Article (journal / magazine / newspaper)
Publisher and its location
U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services
6 page PDF
Environmental Health Perspectives
Keywords and any other relevant information
Keywords: environmental science, foresight, planning, precaution, risk assessment, science policy.

Citation: Environ Health Perspect 109:871-876
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