RS20310 - Science Behind the Regulation of Food Safety: Risk Assessment and the Precautionary Principle
27-Aug-1999; Mickey Parish; 5 p.
Abstract: Although Congress, the President and agency administrators support the use of science as a basis for food safety regulatory activities, there are controversies about how science can best be used for this purpose. Supporters of science-based regulations regard conclusions from well-designed scientific studies as largely impartial and fair; however, basing regulations on scientific data is not always clear-cut since it may take years before scientists generally agree about results of controversial studies. Meanwhile, it is up to regulators to decide on the best means of applying scientific data as it becomes available. Some advocates of science-based regulatory activity support risk assessment for the rule-making process. Others voice concerns about lengthy time periods needed to conduct authoritative risk assessments. They sometimes favor the ¨precautionary principle¨ as a mitigation strategy. This principle allows for the eliniination of industrial activities or products if evidence indicates possible harm to humans or the environment, even without conclusive scientific proof that such activities or products are unsafe. Since the precautionary principle is a basis for the European Union (EU) ban on imports of U.S. beef from hormone-treated cattle, and since it is being adopted by other international bodies, Congress may consider what the effects these two competing philosophies will have on regulatory activity and on trade. This report will not be updated. [read report]
Topics: Risk & Reform, Agriculture