The precautionary principle within European Union public health policy. The implementation of the principle under conditions of supranationality and citizenship.

Abstract

The present study examines the precautionary principle within the parameters of public health policy in the European Union, regarding both its meaning, as it has been shaped by relevant EU institutions and their counterparts within the Member States, and its implementation in practice. In the initial section I concentrate on the methodological question of "scientific uncertainty" concerning the calculation of risk and possible damage. Calculation of risk in many cases justifies the adopting of preventive measures, but, as it is argued, the principle of precaution and its implementation cannot be wholly captured by a logic of calculation; such a principle does not only contain scientific uncertainty-as the preventive principle does-but it itself is generated as a principle by this scientific uncertainty, recognising the need for a society to act. Thus, the implementation of the precautionary principle is also a simultaneous search for justification of its status as a principle. This justification would result in the adoption of precautionary measures against risk although no proof of this principle has been produced based on the "cause-effect" model. The main part of the study is occupied with an examination of three cases from which the stance of the official bodies of the European Union towards the precautionary principle and its implementation emerges: the case of the "mad cows" disease, the case of production and commercialization of genetically modified foodstuffs. The study concludes with the assessment that the effective implementation of the precautionary principle on a European level depends on the emergence of a concerned Europe-wide citizenship and its acting as a mechanism to counteract the material and social conditions that pose risks for human health.

Cite this paper

@article{Antonopoulou2003ThePP, title={The precautionary principle within European Union public health policy. The implementation of the principle under conditions of supranationality and citizenship.}, author={Lila Antonopoulou and Philip van Meurs}, journal={Health policy}, year={2003}, volume={66 2}, pages={179-97} }