Banning Chemicals: Scientists Debate Europe's Precautionary Principle


Two scientists with differing views of European safety procedures took part in a discussion on the subject.

Banning Chemicals: Scientists Debate Europe's Precautionary Principle

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  • 4 years ago

Two scientists with differing views of European safety procedures took part in a discussion on the subject.

Two scientists with differing views of European safety procedures, referred to as the Precautionary Principle, took part in a discussion on the subject.

Randy Oliver is a American biologist and owner of ScientificBeeKeeping.com. He thinks that European safety procedures are politically motivated, and says that it's all about risk assessment.

“Nothing is risk free. Any chemical carries risk. Somehow you've got to temper the precautionary principle. I have a feeling this is more of a political decision than a scientific decision. In my opinion the evidence would not stand up in a court of law.”

Walter Haefeker is President of the European Professional Beekeepers Association and a member of the Board of Directors of the German Professional Beekeepers Association. He was involved in the process that led to the the temporary banning of three neonicotinoids by the EU in 2013:

“I don't think the scientific process itself is very different [between Europe and the US]. Scientific process is there to inform the political decisions initiated by the European Commission. Several member states instituted regional bans upon seeing effects [from neonicotinoids on bees]" explained Haefeker.

"A desire to find out the scientific basis by risk managers of member states, regardless of position, was part of the process and also the manufacturers themselves were heavily involved in trying to collect all data of the impact on all pollinators.

“The conclusion gave a clear indication that there were problems that the approval process didn't pick up on when the products were originally approved. The commission, because of the precautionary principle, was forced to come up with a proposal on how to remedy this.

“They had three options, completely ban the product, partially ban or institute measures to mitigate risk. The proposal they then made needed to be approved by a qualified majority of member states. A discussion on appropriate response to the risk was identified by the Efsa.

"Member states allowed the commission's proposal to go through,” explained Haefeker.

Oliver stated: “It was a political decision and not all member states agreed.”

Haefeker stated: “At the end of the day with any of these decisions, they're always political. That's why we elect politicians, to weigh the cause and effect. This was not just a little bit of science but a science slug-out. Everyone tried to bring in best arguments. The arguments for partial ban carried the day.”

Listen to the whole discussion here.

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