INNOVATION AND THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE: ***. Carolyn Raffensperger New York March 17, 2004. Roadmap for this morning: three key ideas. The precautionary principle Why What How The public trust doctrine What is government for? A public interest research agenda. The central theme.
March 17, 2004
A key government role is to serve as the trustee of the common wealth for this and future generations. The precautionary principle enables government to carry out its responsibility. Public interest research adds to the common wealth. The precautionary principle helps decide what R & D benefits or harms the common wealth.
Wingspread Statement: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”
4. Democratic decision-making
1) Respect - for the needs and rights of this and future generations as well as others who cannot speak for themselves
2) Humility - towards the natural world and our ability to understand it through science
3) Democracy - giving people a voice in matters that affect their lives
- government’s public trust responsibility to manage the commonwealth for this and future generations.
- Individuals’ including industry, obligation to take responsibility for their actions in the world.
All formulations include:
1) Threat of harm
2) Lack of scientific certainty
3) Action to prevent harm
(we’ll come back to this in a minute)
Using the precautionary principle earlier in the development of a product is a wiser use of resources and catches more potential harm.
The Public Trust Doctrine is a matter of common law or state constitutions in 48 states.
The Constitution of Hawaii says this “For the benefit of present and future generations, the State and its political subdivisions shall conserve and protect Hawaii's natural beauty and all natural resources, including land, water, air, minerals and energy sources, and shall promote the development and utilization of these resources in a manner consistent with their conservation and in furtherance of the self-sufficiency of the State. All public natural resources are held in trust by the State for the benefit of the people.”
In a legal challenge asking Hawaii to enforce its constitutional public trust responsibility the court said:
“Where scientific evidence is preliminary and not yet conclusive … it is prudent to adopt ‘precautionary principles’ in protecting the resource.” (Hawaii Supreme Court in Waiahole Ditch)
Public interest research aims at developing knowledge and/or technology that increases the common wealth. (Peters, 1999)
“Scientists alone can establish the objectives of their research, but society, in extending support to science, must take account of its own needs”