Skip to main content

Precautionary principle

Glossary

Pertains to risk management and states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is not harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action. The principle is used to justify discretionary decisions when the possibility of harm from making a certain decision (e.g., taking a particular course of action) is not, or has not been, established through extensive scientific knowledge. The principle implies that there is a social responsibility to protect the public from exposure to harm, when scientific investigation has found a plausible risk or if a potential plausible risk has been identified.