It’s Time to Apply The Precautionary Principle

A few months ago I was speaking to a class at Lafayette College in Easton, PA about my book, Organic Manifesto. Afterward, the professor asked me if I was aware of the precautionary principle, which is a scientific term that means something has to be proven safe before it can be unleashed, as opposed to proven dangerous after it has been unleashed (which is the standard in America today).

I was so intrigued that I wrote the term in pen on my hand so I wouldn’t forget, because I believe that this is the root of our problems with our health and the environment. Good clean science depends on isolating variables and replicating results over time…usually a LONG time. (How many times have you read an important study that ends with “more research is needed”?) In our unisolated, super-high-speed world today, it’s almost impossible to do good clean science. And if it is done, and something is proven unsafe, the actual removal of the toxins is expensive, complicated, and, frankly, excruciating for everyone. In the meantime, all of us, especially our children, are the unwitting lab rats. How’s that for good clean science?

Most Americans believe there is a group somewhere deep in the bowels of our bureaucracy that is tasked with ensuring that we are kept safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. And I was sadly reminded of this when I read a recent report that women and infants who were tested in Canada have the toxin Bt—a GMO toxin—in their BLOOD because they have eaten “cheap” GMO-laden foods. Like I said in my book, GMOs are inside our food. We can’t wash them off or peel them away. And now it seems they’re in our blood, too. (I know they’re in my blood, because I ate a bag of potato chips in the airport the other day. I’m sorry, but I was starving!)

What does all this bode for our future? NO ONE KNOWS FOR SURE. And because we don’t use the precautionary principle as our standard, it might already be too late.

If you want more information on the precautionary principle, this is a good source.


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11 Responses to It’s Time to Apply The Precautionary Principle

  1. Diane Husic June 8, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    The science gives us evidence or clues — information that can guide future experients or be used by others. Regulators and policy makers (i.e. politicians and politics) control legislation. Some information they use comes from science, much comes from special interests groups.

    If we believe that the precautionary principle is an important standard, then we, the “public” need to become familiar with the information (I prefer that which comes from science), critically analyze the implications for our health and the environment, and then unite to pressure our ELECTED officials to do the right thing. If they don’t then we shouldn’t re-elect them.

  2. Bonnie June 8, 2011 at 8:01 am #

    Thank you for highlighting a dangerous problem that is all too often overlooked by our loser media! I hope your article encourages other attention to this problem.

  3. Donna E June 8, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    You’re so right about this,I first heard this phrase when I watched the documentary A Chemical Reaction: The story of a true green Revolution
    Here’s a lonk to their page- Dr Irwin is a true champion for the Canadian people,and she was at the front of how they got dangerous lawn chemicals out of & away from their people.If you haven’t seen it I strongly advice it.To those whose children suffer ADD I recommend it also everything is related. I’ve got to get your book Maria,I love all your info,thanks and keep us thinking,learning & growing strong! I’ll keep reading!

  4. Donna E June 8, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    I couldn’t follow the more info link for some reason. 🙁

  5. Donna in Delaware June 8, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    Yes, this is the belief with most of us in this country. We truly think and feel that there is some group in the government looking out for us little people, keeping us safe from harmful things in the environment, the products that we use, food, and even what our homes and businesses are made of. We have quickly learned that that is not the truth! I had heard of the precautionary principle, but it’s been such a long time that I forgot about it. Thanks for the reminder.

    I think that it is too much work for the government and that is why things just get into the system. We, thinking that there have been years of study governing things before it is unleashed on us, dive in and get busy eating and using these foods and products thinking that they are safe. It is a situation that is out of control, for the most part. How do we deal with it? It will not go away anytime soon, and by the time it does, too many of us and our children will be sick, dying or dead.

  6. Donna in Delaware June 8, 2011 at 1:29 pm #

    Thanks DONNA E for the link. Had a look and is very interesting. Will use some of the ideas and purchase some things also!

  7. Charles Metzger June 8, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    So how can the safety of something new be proven, particularly proven definitively? It seems a lot like proving something using the scientific method are incompatible. How could you ever be sure that you had covered all the bases? Can the safety of something be proven without a doubt? What parameters could be set which would give reasonable certainty? It would be great to know there is a way!

  8. Myra June 8, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Donna, thanks for the link to the lawn chemicals story. After watching the movie segment, all I could do was sit and stare at the monitor and say, “Oh, my goodness!” Of course, I have always been concerned about the topic, but this re-emphasized the problem.

    I will post a link to my blog:

    Maria, thanks for your article that began the discussion. Getting rid of GMOs seems like the impossible dream. I am afraid it is nearly impossible. I do not see a way to eliminate the problem. We are scraping the edge of an iceberg with a toothpick. We need a trillion toothpicks, but we cannot give up.

  9. Diane Husic June 8, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    It is rare that something is definitely proven in science. The question becomes how much evidence is needed to show correlations or elevated risk. A great book illustrating the problems in this regard is Sandra Steingraber’s “Living Downstream”. There are many, many studies showing evidence linking environmental contaminants to cancer and other forms of disease, yet the policy makers keep saying that there is no “proof” so they can’t change the regulations to make them more stringent.

  10. Christian Munthe June 12, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    Those of you who might be interested in a discussion of the PP and its ethical basis that takes into account that, obviously, precaution always has a price may want to have a look at my new book The Price of Precaution and the Ethics of Risk:

  11. Donna E June 14, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Diane I’ll check out Living Downstream, wondered if any of you have seen Big River which is a follow up to King Corn? Both are great documentaries regarding pesticides,their life,and damage. Here are the links,I saw them on Netflix instant view. &

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