Too Many Precautions Will Kill You

Alan Caruba
July 14, 2002


With the relentless passion of true believers, self-appointed environmental and health activists are busy promoting a potent new weapon in their ongoing war against business, technology, and progress. Known euphemistically as the "Precautionary Principle," it is the latest manifestation of how these radicals obscure their real intentions by swathing them in the rhetoric of risk, fear, environmental destruction, and utopian dreams of safety through ever-expanding regulation.

Begin first by understanding that it is not a "principle" at all. It is the invention of radical Greens and others who conjure up these devices in order to impose their agendas upon the unwitting who actually believe their lies.

The Precautionary Principle totally abandons the time-tested scientific method that separates fact from fiction. Rather than placing faith in science, it employs the rhetoric of fear to wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. Its true purpose is to thwart invention and innovation, keeping new and improved products and services off the market.

In practice, it will further control consumer and lifestyle choices. Ultimately, it will put people's lives at risk.

In the hands of activist pressure groups, bureaucrats, lawyers and judges, the Precautionary Principle focuses solely on the POSSIBILITY that a risk MIGHT exist. Mere allegations of a threat, however small or theoretical, will automatically trigger endless delays or outright bans. If enacted as law, our freedom and our right to ask "How much risk?" "Is the risk real?" and "Are the benefits greater than the risks?" would cease to exist.

The Precautionary Principle is the exact opposite of science which requires evidence, clear links and probable cause, and then measures levels of actual or potential risk. It holds that all products and activities are dangerous until proven absolutely safe, guilty until proven innocent.

True progress has always been about taking risks in order to reduce or eliminate greater risks. Had the Precautionary Principle been in force during the past century, we'd have no electrical power, no x-rays or CAT-scans, no polio or measles vaccines, open heart surgery or organ transplants, and certainly no pesticides, cars or airplanes!

The environmentalists and so-called consumer advocates say they'd never interpret the "principle" that way, but their actions speak louder than their protestations. For example, in the late 1980s, Green activists convinced Peruvian authorities to stop chlorinating their nation's drinking water, claiming that chlorine posed a "potential" cancer risk. The result was a cholera epidemic that infected over a million people and killed thousands.

In 1972, Greens succeeded in banning DDT. Previously, it had all but eliminated malaria in many Asian and African countries. Malaria returned with a vengeance. According to the World Health Organization, during the past three decades at least 30 million people have died from malaria in Third World nations, especially Africa. Half were children under the age of five. A simple, cheap, effective application of DDT would have saved their lives.

Donald Roberts, professor of public health at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Maryland, says, "Not using DDT is criminal." For the Greens, however, preventing millions of deaths takes a back seat to their rabid anti-pesticide, anti-progress ideology.

From the "Alar" hoax about apples, to claims that cell phones cause brain damage, to attacks on genetically modified foods and seeds, to allegations about phthalates in plastics, the Greens continue to seek every way possible to thwart any progress that might benefit mankind. In the process, they perpetrate a form of benign genocide.

There is one final reason why Americans (and others around the world) should resist every effort to impose the Precautionary Principle. Science-based caution has always been the foundation of US regulatory policy, insuring that a careful weighing of real evidence for potential harm and benefits will govern our consumer, health, environmental, and agricultural rules.

The Precautionary Principle would destroy a system that has blessed Americans with the best health and longest life expectancy in world history. Its enactment as the basic for regulatory law should send chills down everyone's spine.


Alan CarubaAlan Caruba is the author of "The United Nations Vs. The United States", available from the website of The National Anxiety Center. He writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs", also posted on the site. The Center is a clearinghouse for information about scare campaigns designed to influence public opinion and policy.
Copyright Alan Caruba, 2002
First North American Serial Rights only.
Permission to publish is granted.

The National Anxiety Center
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(973) 763-6392 ~ www.anxietycenter.com

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3 aug 2002