Danes debate the precautionary principle

Government seeks to increase public awareness, launches internet discussion forum

The Danish environment ministry has published a book on the precautionary principle with the aim of stimulating public debate on this issue. The document is based on a conference held in May this year by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and includes speeches by policy makers, industry representatives, lawyers and environmentalists. Public discussion on the precautionary principle is "very important," Lisbet Seedorff, head of the EPA's chemicals division, told ENDS Daily. Policy makers need to know what types of risks people are not prepared to accept, as well as those that they will accept, she said. According to arguments presented in the book, the precautionary principle needs to combine economic, social and ethical considerations with scientific data if it is to work in a "meaningful way". Denmark already uses the precautionary principle in many of its environmental laws, according to Ms Seedorff, who cites a recent decision to unilaterally ban phthalates in children's toys (index.cfm?action=issue&no=357"ENDS Daily 6 August). In an additional effort to stimulate public debate, the EPA has launched a discussion forum on the precautionary principle on its internet web site. A new national environmental action plan, to be published next year, will focus on the precautionary principle, Ms Seedorff said.

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