The International Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology Research (ICABR)
Risks of Biotechnology:
The Precautionary Principle and Social Standards
K. Knudsen and Pasquale L. Scandizzo
offers tremendous potential benefits to society but also presents unknown risks.
While research focuses on how to manifest the benefits of this
technology, the outside community fears the consequences that biotechnology may
inadvertently have on the environment.
To balance these benefits against the environmental risks is one of the
major public policy challenges of the 21st century.
approach to this risk is through the application of the precautionary principle.
In the strongest form of this principle, technology should not be
advanced until the risks are fully known and mitigated.
This do-no-harm approach places the burden of proof on the
implementation of the technology. A
weaker version of the principle proposes that the risks need to be
evaluated against the benefits before progressing on the technology.
the stronger version of the precautionary principle has been vigorously
supported by many environmental movements, critics argue that its application
would stifle technological change. Although
the second principle has more support among policymakers, its critics argue that
it does not go for enough -- even if the risks are small for an outcome, the
consequences would be unacceptable if some threshold of impact is surpassed.
this paper, we explore an approach that captures the essence of the weaker
precautionary principle but also accounts for the unacceptable outcome.
This approach utilizes the concept of a social standard and a methodology
applied in the assessment of basic needs and biotechnology and patents (Knudsen
and Scandizzo). Under this
methodology , a social standard is established and accounted for in the
cost-benefit analysis. The
existence of the social standard creates an additional cost or benefit to the
assessment of a project.
the paper, we develop the approach with uncertain outcomes and a society or
politically established threshold or standard.
We show how the standard could be determined when there are costs to
adaption or transaction costs in compensating those inputs by the project.
Finally, we present a dynamic model where the option value of a project
is determined with or without a social standard or risk threshold.