The Precautionary Principle and Pesticides

Back in 1998, the attendees of the Wingspread Conference (scientists, philosophers, lawyers and environmental activists) created a consensus statement known as the Precautionary Principle*. Let’s take a look at some highlights.

‘We believe existing environmental regulations and other decisions, particularly those based on risk assessment, have failed to protect adequately human health and the environment – the larger system of which humans are but a part.

We believe there is compelling evidence that damage to humans and the worldwide environment is of such magnitude and seriousness that new principles for conducting human activities are necessary.

While we realize that human activities may involve hazards, people must proceed more carefully than has been the case in recent history. Corporations, government entities, organizations, communities, scientists and other individuals must adopt a precautionary approach to all human endeavors.

In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.’

 This statement applies to current concerns about pesticide use and is just as relevant and correct now as it was 16 years ago, perhaps even more so. No longer is it prudent to rely on the assurances of safety from industry, or regulatory bodies. The past (and present) proves this beyond any doubt.  A change in how we handle pesticide use is long overdue. It is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle:

‘When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.’

The weak safety assurances given to the public such as, ‘products are water based’ or ‘no risks to people or pets’ are not at all truthful. Given the fact that the inert ingredients in a product are not disclosed on labels (how can you say it’s safe if you don’t even know what’s in it?), only active ingredients are tested – not whole formulations. Neither are mixtures or cocktails of chemicals, metabolites and impurities, effects on fetuses and newborns, endocrine disruption, inter-generational effects, or developmental toxicity being studied during the regulatory process. Being ‘regulated’ means essentially nothing. More information on pesticide myths can be found here.

Over and over, we see it’s after a product has been used and is widely present in our environment and bodies that the harmful effects are then recognized. Using these toxic pesticides, while safer alternatives exist, makes no sense in light of the principle laid out here.


Let Dover city officials know it’s time to stop using toxic pesticides on city property.

*Read the full statement here.

About NonToxicDoverNH

Advocating for safe and healthy public spaces for Dover, New Hampshire residents.
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1 Response to The Precautionary Principle and Pesticides

  1. Pingback: It’s Raining Roundup – And That’s Not A Metaphor | Non-Toxic Dover, New Hampshire

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