Focus Point - The Precautionary PrincipleCommentary by Pete du Pont
August 29, 2001
I'm Pete du Pont with the National Center for Policy Analysis. A number of environmentalists citing the adage "better safe than sorry," argue the so-called precautionary principle should be used in making policy. Thus, technology shouldn't be used until it be shown it's no threat to humans or the environment. Sounds reasonable in theory, but it's disastrous in practice.
Take genetically modified crops. Some environmentalists want international biosafety protocols embodying the precautionary approach: don't touch them until we're sure nothing can go wrong.
But biologists from the national academy of sciences concluded environmental threats posed by gm crops are nothing to the harm traditional farming methods will inflict on developing countries. The National Research Council found the risk of each gm foods are the same as those for traditional crops.
By eschewing artificial fertilizers, pesticides and biotechnologies, we'd have to double the amount of land under cultivation in less than 50 years - a disaster for wildlife, plants, forests, rangelands and undeveloped land. By using biotechnology, we can give the future adequate diets and protect more land. Now that's environmentalism at work.
Those are my ideas, and at the NCPA we know ideas can change the world. I'm Pete du Pont. Next time, P.J.'s back.