Is the precautionary principle an effective tool for policymakers to use in regulating emerging technologies?
The first article highlights the progress made in the past few years due to the changes, innovations and improvement in technology. It notes that although the population has grown tremendously over the past century, this has not affected people’s well-being (Haas, Hird, & McBratney, 2010). People live longer and there is more food security in developing nations than there was some years back. The article further notes that differing regulations on new technology have caused trade disputes in different countries. In addition, the article notes that the precautionary principle’s main objective is to reduce or eliminate health, safety and environmental risk when implementing new technology.
The principle has both weak and strong versions. The weaker versions are generally accepted without scientific proof while the stronger versions require scientific proof to show that they are safe (Haas, Hird, & McBratney, 2010). The author notes that although new technologies may pose newer risks, they have generally been accepted since they eliminate and reduce previous risks. It is not possible to tell whether proposed technology will have other risks. Some of the guidelines, which should be used in conjunction with the principle, include the following criteria, human mortality, human morbidity, immediacy, uncertainty, expectation value, adaptation, and irreversibility criterion. The principle should also be used with comparative risk analysis to reduce the overall risks (Haas, Hird, & McBratney, 2010).
Technologies are related to new health, safety and environmental risks such as cancer and global warming. It is important to regulate technology, although it is not clear whether this should be done after seeing clear and concrete results about the associated risks. The strong or prescriptive version of the principle places the proof burden on the innovators of the risky technologies, while the weak or argumentative version places the proof burden on the regulators. There is a need to put more regulation in technology as failing to do this has contributed to some fatal incidences, such as the case with asbestos. The precautionary principle slows down the decision making process, and in order to avoid this it should be combined with a decision analytic framework (Haas, Hird, & McBratney, 2010). It is not possible for people to be completely out of risk regardless of the technology they choose. The perspective’s stronger version leads to technological slowdown since it does not allow for faster implementation of policies. The weaker version is however more practical since it allows for both the precautionary regulation and implementation of new technology (Haas, Hird, & McBratney, 2010).
I think that the principle on precautionary is not really an effective measure for regulating technologies. This is because I believe it slows down the pace of technology. This does not however mean that technology should not be regulated. On the contrary, I think that it would be prudent for people and governments to accept technology without considering all the risks involved. If the technology proves to be fatal to human life, then regulation should be implemented and the said technology should not be adopted. This is especially common in the field of health, where researchers and scientists develop medicine that might not be fit for human use (Haas, Hird, & McBratney, 2010).
I do believe that there would be no advancements in any field if people were to adopt the principle’s strong version. No one can be certain about the long-term risks of any invention. Some of the inventions, such as the microwave oven, were though to be dangerous when they were first invented. If governments at that time had adopted the principle’s strong version, people all over the world would not have been able to enjoy the benefits of the microwave. Adopting new technologies enables people to improve on these technologies after seeing their side effects. For instance, people are realizing the dangers of using fossil fuels to the environment and they are looking for alternative sources of energy. This is a positive step in the right direction. Since people know of the risks of using fossil fuels, they will know what to look out for when they are proposing other alternative sources of energy.
Haas, P., Hird, J. A., & McBratney, B. (2010). Controversies in globalization. Washington, DC: CQ Press
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