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The Precautionary Principle

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Chapter Summary

While the evolution of the precautionary principle in international law began in the early 1980s, some domestic legal systems have considered it a legal principle since the 1970s. Two international instruments specifically incorporate the precautionary principle, the Cartegena Protocol on Biosafety and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The precautionary principle, by contrast, mandates environmental action at an earlier stage. It provides for the situation where there is a potential hazard, but due to scientific uncertainty, a proper prediction cannot be made as to the environmental impact. Scientific uncertainty is considered as the sine qua non for the application of the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle is essentially related to the decision-making process and responds to an important problem in decision making, how to take decisions when complete scientific information concerning the environment is not available.

Keywords: biosafety; Cartegena Protocol; environmental impact; persistent organic pollutants; precautionary principle; scientific uncertainty; Stockholm Convention



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