The European Environment Agency, part of the European Union, has published a report which blasts industry to a greater extent than many environmental groups and is highly critical of governments and society.
Case studies presented, often in a critical way, include:
- The precautionary principle and false alarms — lessons learned
- Too much to swallow: PCE contamination of mains water
- Beryllium’s ‘public relations problem’
- Tobacco industry manipulation of research
- Vinyl chloride: a saga of secrecy
- The pesticide DBCP and male infertility
- Bisphenol A: contested science, divergent safety evaluations
- Booster biocide antifoulants: is history repeating itself?
- Ethinyl oestradiol in the aquatic environment
- Climate change: science and the precautionary principle
- Floods: lessons about early warning systems
- Seed.dressing systemic insecticides and honeybees
- Late lessons from Chernobyl, early warnings from Fukushima
- Hungry for innovation: from GM crops to agroecology
- Invasive alien species: a growing but neglected threat?
- Mobile phones and brain tumour risk: early warnings, early actions?
- Nanotechnology — early lessons from early warnings
Among the many findings:
- numerous case studies show that decisions to act without precaution often come from businesses.
- industry lobbyists . . . oppose or prolong precautionary measures by ‘manufacturing uncertainty’ and generating doubt on the state of scientific evidence.
- increasing scientific knowledge has shown that the causal links between stressors and harm are more complex than was previously thought
- many of the political and scientific ‘bureaucratic silos’ still remain, despite frequent calls for policy integration and inter-departmental coordination.
- environment and health research overly focuses on well-known rather than unknown hazards at the expense of emerging issues and their potential impacts.
Among the many implied recommendations:
- there is growing evidence that precautionary measures do not stifle innovation, but instead can encourage it, in particular when supported by smart regulation or well-designed tax changes.
- new transformative approaches are emerging to manage the systemic and interconnected challenges the world faces e.g. economic/financial, climate/energy, ecosystems/food.
- some corporations are fundamentally embracing sustainable development objectives in their business models and activities.
- precautionary actions can be seen to stimulate rather than hinder innovation; they certainly do not lead to excessive false alarms.
- firms and governments need to extend their economic accounting systems to incorporate the full impacts of their activities on people’s health and on ecosystems.
For consumers, this report opens a wide window into how governments and industry may not always be protecting their health and the environment. For business it provides many suggestions on how corporations and governments might work to win back public trust.
A brief summary, a 44 page summary, and the 746 page full report can be found at http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/the-cost-of-ignoring-the