Obviously the title to this post is inflammatory. How could something so widely accepted as the precautionary principle be evil.
The first problem with the principle, is finding a precise definition.
As is usual with Google, the first hit on the search for the precautionary principle is Wikipedia.
They state: “The precautionary principle states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action.”
This definition requires that an entity taking an action must PROVE that the action will not be “harmful”. I defy anyone to find a single activity or thing that meets this proof. Eating is harmful to the environment to some degree. If you disagree, consider the alfalfa sprout you eat. It was alive before you ate it and it is certainly dead now. And the act of eating it adds to methane gas production and hence contributes to Global Warming (or is it Nuclear Winter, or is it Climate Change, or is it Climate Disruption, or is it Bad Weather, or as the King of Siam said “etcetera etcetera etcetera”). If you are one of those “humans are pollution” people, just assume a rabbit ate the alfalfa.
Note too that none of these things are given magnitudes. “An action or policy has a suspected risk”. Eating has a number of REAL risks. Eating too much will make you obese. Eating incorrectly can lead to choking and death. These harms are real and cannot be eliminated. We should ban eating. Ah yes, but that is an individual, not the public or the environment. Eating Beef contributes to bovine flatulence and contributes to global warming. It should be banned. Eating Vegan contributes to human flatulence and contributes to global warming. It should be banned. By the precautionary principle, eating should be banned.
Lets look at two other ridiculous examples.
Bicycle helmets cause children to play less, hence contributing to societal obesity. As this strains the social safety net, bicycle helmets should be banned. They are also made of plastic and are by definition not reusable (once you use it once in a crash, it must be discarded). We must apply the precautionary principle and ban bicycle helmets, particularly among children.
Sunscreen reduces the production of Vitamin D, contributing to increased cancer. Sunscreen must be banned.
These two above both are supported by as much strong scientific evidence as the bans on alar and bisphenol A.
The “precautionary principle” is a logical contradiction. Action (any action, you can pick one) raises threats of harm to human health or the environment (if you are not sure, I can show you the harm). No Action raises threats of harm to human health or the environment (same arguments). By the precautionary principle, we must both act and not act.
So why is the Precautionary Principle evil? Because it is a catch all for whatever we don’t like this week. And it will eventually catch you.