SLU news

Precautionary measures in need of an update

Published: 29 March 2017

How should the precautionary principle be applied regarding GMOs? This is discussed in an article with the title “How to be cautious but open to learning: time to update biotechnology and GMO legislation” by Sven Ove Hansson, published in the scientific journal Risk Analysis.

The basic idea is that precautionary measures to protect human health and the environment should be science-based. This means that for precaution to be applied there should be scientifically credible evidence of a potential danger. On the one hand, this evidence need not be conclusive, i.e. precaution can be based on scientifically credible suspicions of danger. On the other hand, precaution should not be based on guesses that have no scientific support. Furthermore, precautionary measures should be updated as more scientific information becomes available. Decision makers should be prepared to strengthen the precautionary measures if the danger turns out to be greater than initially suspected, and to reduce or lift them, should the danger prove to be smaller.

Most current legislation on agricultural biotechnology has not been scientifically updated in this respect for several decades. It therefore reflects outdated criteria for identifying products that can cause problems. Modern knowledge in genetics, plant biology, and ecology has provided us with much better criteria for identifying the potentially problematic breeding projects at which precautionary measures should be directed. Legislation on agricultural biotechnology should be scientifically updated so that it makes use of the scientific information that is available today.


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