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A cautious revolution

For the past week or so, I have been investigating the cloned meat issue (see my first post), and I…

By Trevor D'Arcy , in Blogs The Blogoratory: Science News Commentary , on January 29, 2008

For the past week or so, I have been investigating the cloned meat issue (see my first post), and I have stumbled upon something novel.

It is always startling to stumble upon something that you have been unconsciously searching for, for a long time. Especially when it turns out to be right in front of your face. Like a great big hot air balloon preparing to float into the sky.

In fact, it seems to have been huffing and puffing and inflating itself right in front of North America’s big face, but has remained largely unnoticed.

I am talking about the precautionary principle (I recommend you google it).

The European Union tried to incorporate the precautionary principle into their constitution, but after the constitution failed, the principle found itself somehow tied up in the legislature. Either way, the EU has adopted it as a foundation for developing many important policies.

The precautionary principle is a bit of a slippery and idealistic concept, but it realizes many faults in how Canada and the US currently develop policy. The genetically modified foods (GMF) and cloned meat debates are perfect examples.

The US approved both GMFs and cloned livestock for their market after scientific assessments of health risks. Europe did the same, and for the most part found the same results. However, they have declined to develop GMFs and, unlike North America, they have a strict labelling policy. Now, they are once again causing problems for Biotech firms as they deliberate on the cloned meat issue.

Europe refuses to ‘cooperate’ because they actually care about their consumers and the environment; on top of assessing health risks, they also take into consideration the rights of consumers, the ethical questions, as well as the complex environmental consequences of these new technologies.

The precautionary principle is a breath of fresh air, it revives some hope and faith in governance. It compels us to learn from our mistakes and to acknowledge the environment as an essential part of a good, stable life.