Precautionary Principle

Wednesday, August 4, 2010 - 8:00pm


Ensure that regulatory decisions are based on scientifically sound and technically rigorous risk assessments, and oppose the adoption of the precautionary principle as the basis for regulation.

Summary of the Issue

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce supports a science-based approach to risk management where risk is assessed based on scientifically sound and technically rigorous analysis. Under this approach, regulatory actions are justified where there are legitimate, scientifically ascertainable risks to human health, safety, or the environment. That is, the greater the risk, the greater the degree of regulatory scrutiny. This standard has served the nation well, and has led to astounding breakthroughs in the fields of science, health care, medicine, biotechnology, agriculture, and many other fields. There is, however, a relatively new theory known as the precautionary principle that is gaining popularity among environmentalists and other groups. The precautionary principle says that when the risks of a particular activity are unclear or unknown, assume the worst and avoid the activity. It is essentially a policy of risk avoidance.

The regulatory implications of the precautionary principle are substantial. For instance, the precautionary principle holds that since the existence and extent of global warming and climate change are not known, one should assume the worst, and immediately restrict the use of carbon-based fuels. However the nature and extent of key environmental, health, and safety concerns require careful scientific and technical analysis. That is why the U.S. Chamber has long supported the use of sound science, cost-benefit analysis, and risk assessment when assessing a particular regulatory issue.

The precautionary principle has been explicitly incorporated into various laws and regulations in the European Union and various international bodies. In the United States, radical environmentalists are pushing for its adoption as a basis for regulating biotechnology, food and drug safety, environmental protection, and pesticide use.

U.S. Chamber Strategy

  • Support a science-based approach to risk management, where risk is assessed based on scientifically sound and technically rigorous standards.
  • Oppose the domestic and international adoption of the precautionary principle as a basis for regulatory decision making.
  • Educate consumers, businesses, and federal policymakers about the implications of the precautionary principle.

Contact Information

Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs Division
(202) 463-5533