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Environmental risk and the precautionary principle. "Late lessons from early warnings" applied to genetically modified plants




The environmental risk associated with genetically modified organisms (GMO) implies that new approaches to risk assessment, risk management and risk communication are needed. In this paper we discuss the role of the precautionary principle in policy responses to GMO risk. We first discuss application of the criteria in the European Environment Agency report "Late lessons from early warnings: The precautionary principle 1896-2000" to environmental GMO risk, with focus on crop plants. Moreover, we discuss Bayesian analysis in the context of improving the informational basis for decision making under uncertainty. Finally, environmental uncertainties are intertwined with economic uncertainties. Providing incentives for improved risk assessment, risk management and risk communication is crucial for enhancing social and environmental responsibility and thereby facilitate implementation of precautionary approaches. We discuss ethical screening of companies as an example of how such incentives can be provided.

Suggested Citation

  • Iulie Aslaksen & Bent Natvig & Inger Nordal, 2004. "Environmental risk and the precautionary principle. "Late lessons from early warnings" applied to genetically modified plants," Discussion Papers 398, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:ssb:dispap:398

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gollier, Christian & Treich, Nicolas, 2003. "Decision-Making under Scientific Uncertainty: The Economics of the Precautionary Principle," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 77-103, August.
    2. Batie, Sandra S. & Ervin, David E., 2001. "Transgenic crops and the environment: missing markets and public roles," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 6(04), pages 435-457, October.
    3. Gollier, Christian & Jullien, Bruno & Treich, Nicolas, 2000. "Scientific progress and irreversibility: an economic interpretation of the 'Precautionary Principle'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 229-253, February.
    4. Dietmar Harhoff & Pierre Régibeau & Katharine Rockett, 2001. "Some simple economics of GM food," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(33), pages 263-299, October.
    5. Madhu Khanna & William Rose Q. Anton, 2002. "Corporate Environmental Management: Regulatory and Market-Based Incentives," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 78(4), pages 539-558.
    6. Noussair, Charles & Robin, Stephane & Ruffieux, Bernard, 2002. "Do consumers not care about biotech foods or do they just not read the labels?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 47-53, March.
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    More about this item


    Environmental risk; precautionary principle; Bayesian analysis; genetically modified organisms.;

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • Q20 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - General
    • Q50 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - General

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