The for science-based risk assessments and public participation

The Precautionary Principle is a powerful tool for protecting
societal health, including food health and the environment. In fact, the
precautionary principle was originally introduced for dealing with
environmental issues (Gignon et al. 2013). The Precautionary Principle enhances
the collection of risk information for high production volume chemicals and risk-based
analyses. It does not eliminate the need for science-based risk assessments and
public participation is often encouraged in both the review process and the
decision-making process. The Precautionary Principle encourages transparency of
the risk assessment of chemicals both for public health and environment (Hayes
et al. 2010).

 

One example of differing approaches in two
different cultures is how the United States and European Union handle
herbicides, specifically Atrazine. Atrazine pesticide use is widely used in the
United States with EPA/FDA approval and banned in the EU (Jablonowski, Schäffer
& Burauel 2011) In 2004, the use of atrazine was banned in the EU because
it was found that drinking water concentrations exceeded allowed limits and
presented a “unpreventable water contamination” situation. Atrazine and its
metabolites can be found in soil and water for decades. For example, 18 years
after the material was banned in Germany, it is still being found in
groundwater samples and in soil as well (Jablonowski, Schäffer & Burauel
2011). Atrazine is a potent endocrine disruptor active in the ppb (parts per
billion) range in fish, amphibians, reptiles, and human cell lines; and there
is evidence that it interferes with reproduction and development, and may cause
cancer (Sass & Colangelo 2006)

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The US FDA/EPA reviewed Atrazine through
regulatory procedures, government documents, and reports by the manufacturer of
atrazine (Syngenta) to decide upon its status.  It was found that to
influence the U.S. atrazine assessment, flawed scientific data was submitted as
evidence of no harm, and Syngenta held repeated private meetings with EPA/FDA
to negotiate the government’s regulatory approach. Many of the details of these
negotiations are withheld from the public, despite government regulations and
federal laws that require such decisions to be made in the open as well as the
component of the Precautionary Principle which states the public to be informed
and included (Sass & Colangelo 2006). Related to this was the economic
impact exploration which found that an Atrazine ban for consumers would hold an
upward increase of 8% on corn prices which converts to a 1.4% increase in the
retail price of beef (Ackerman, Whited & Knight 2014). It would not be much
of a stretch to claim that the United States hold’s dollar in a higher regard
than the precautionary principle. I personally favor the European Union
approach, and would argue they should have been more aggressive earlier. When
dealing with societal health and the environment, we cannot afford to gamble on
these potentially dangerous materials especially considering the consequences
can be so far reaching and life altering.  The EU approach favors its
citizen’s health over corporate profits in this aspect, something quite aligned
with the Precautionary Principle which I agree with.