The Science and Environmental Health Network


Blog, Updates, and In the News

Crafting the New Story.png

Precautionary Principle - Number 206

Synthetic biology, sea garbage, and bees

April 2012


I. New declaration calls for precautionary oversight for the emerging field of synthetic biology

Friends of the Earth, March 13, 2012

A broad coalition of 111 organizations from around the world has released the first global civil society declaration to outline principles that must be adopted to protect public health and the environment from the risks posed by synthetic biology, and to address the field’s economic, social and ethical challenges. Until these governance principles are in place, the coalition calls for a moratorium on the release and commercial use of synthetic organisms and products. SEHN contributed substantial parts of the statement on precaution.

Read more

II. The garbage revolution

Dennis L. Bryant,, March 23, 2012

In a little-noticed provision last year, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) prohibited ships from dumping any garbage at sea unless specific exceptions were made. "This revision, which comes into effect on 1 January 2013, represents the official adoption of the precautionary principle into the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution at Sea by Ships (MARPOL Convention)." This article in an industry publication discusses the implication for handling materials such as "dunnage"—packing material for cargo.

Read more

III. Precautionary principle: why it can be useful 

CWA Consulting Services, April 9, 2012

A former EPA scientist offers a cogent explanation of how and why the precautionary principle should be applied now regarding nicotinoid pesticides and bee colony collapse.

Read more

IV.  The burden of proof in the debate over health 

Cheng Hsien-yu, Taipei Times, March 23, 2012

"Scientific and rational policy responses to pollution and other things that are harmful to human health, such as avian influenza, SARS, foot-and-mouth disease, leanness-enhancing feed additives and nuclear accidents, should all be based on what is called the precautionary principle. Taking precautions means putting safety first, because it is better to be safe than sorry. This notion underpins the Wingspread Consensus Statement on the Precautionary Principle. . . ."

Read more

V. Scientists recommend Canadian regulation be more reasonable; government listens

Trevor Butterworth, Forbes, April 11, 2012

"In the history of Canada, the trial and acquittal of D5 will probably not amount to more than a footnote to a footnote. But in regulatory history the case of the mud worms versus D5 is of more than passing interest. It's the first time a "Board of Review" has been granted since Canada's 1999 environmental law enshrined the precautionary principle as the preferred method of regulating chemicals 'where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage.'"

Read more