By: Jacqueline Peel
The precautionary principle puts forward the `commonsense' notion that decision-makers should be cautious when assessing potential health or environmental harms in the absence of the full scientific facts. It is now a well-established tenet of environmental law. The debate has turned to its legal implementation, especially its application `in practice'.
Written from an Australian perspective, the Precautionary Principle in Practice - Environmental decision-making and scientific uncertainty focuses on these issues. It considers how decision-makers can assess threats to health or the environment when the available scientific evidence is sparse and discusses the types of `uncertainties' that bring the precautionary principle into play.
Peel uses detailed case studies which examine the implementation of the precautionary principle in actual decision-making scenarios: fisheries management; risk assessment for genetically modified organisms; and environmental impact assessment for development applications.
She demonstrates an approach that takes account of variable uncertainty issues and can be adapted to different circumstances to ensure a comprehensive assessment of the potential threats to health or the environment.
Jackie Peel has a background in both science and law. She took a BSC/LLB with 1st class honours at the University of Queensland and holds an LLM from New York University where she studied in 1999-2000 as a Fulbright Scholar. She is now is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law, University of Melbourne.
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