1 May 2003
and the price of precaution
|by Sandy Starr
|Imagine medicine without
vaccines, penicillin, antibiotics, aspirin, X-rays, heart surgery, or the
|Imagine scientific theory
without Newton, Galileo, quantum mechanics, or the human genome project.
|Imagine transport without
aeroplanes, railways, cars or bicycles; power without gas, electricity or
nuclear energy; agriculture without pesticides, hybrid crops or the plough.
Imagine man had never been to the moon.
|This is how scientists
imagine history, had past developments been subject to the constraints of
the 'precautionary principle' - the assumption that experimentation should
only proceed where there is a guarantee that the outcome will not be harmful.
|In the run-up to spiked's conference Panic Attack:
Interrogating our obsession with risk, taking place at London's Royal
Institution on Friday 9 May, we asked 40 members of the international scientific
community to list what significant discoveries and achievements would have
been limited or prevented, if science at the time had been governed by the
precautionary principle that dominates science today.
|Between them, respondents
came up with an A-Z of historic achievements that would have been thwarted
by the precautionary principle:
In fact, as Adam Finn, professor
of paediatrics at the Institute of Child Health, said, 'pretty much everything'
would have been prevented or limited under the precautionary principle,
as 'there is nothing we do that has no theoretical risk, and nearly everything
carries some actual risk'.
- The Aeroplane; Air conditioning;
All drugs with side effects; Alternating
electric power; the discovery of America; Anhydrous ammonia
fertiliser; Antibiotics; Aspirin; the Automobile.
- The Bicycle; Biotechnology;
Blood transfusion; CAT scans;
Chlorine; the Contraceptive
Pill; Cultivation of rice and maize.
- Digitalis; the discovery of
Electric lightbulbs; Electroconvulsive therapy.
- Fire; Gas power; GM
crops; the Green Revolution; work by Galileo and Newton.
- High-voltage power grids; Hoes;
Hybrid crops; the Human genome
project; the Internal combustion engine; the Internet;
In vitro fertilisation; Iron;
the Jet engine; Knives.
- The Measles vaccine; Molecular
biology; Neural lesions; NMR imaging; Nuclear fission;
Nuclear power; Nuclear physics.
- Oil; Open-heart surgery;
- Pasteurisation; Penicillin;
the Periodic table; Pesticides; Plant domestication;
Ploughs; the Polio vaccine.
- Quantum mechanics; the Rabies
vaccine; Radar; Railways; Radiation; Radio;
Radioisotope thermal generators;
Refrigeration; Rocket power.
- The Smallpox vaccine; Space
exploration; Steam power; Stem cell biology; the breaking
of the Sound barrier.
- The Telephone; Water supply
and distribution; the Wheel.
|Respondents included Sallie Baliunas (astrophysicist,
and enviro-sci host at Tech Central Station), Professor Jim Bridges (chair of
the European Commission's toxicity committee), Carl Djerassi (emeritus professor
of chemistry at Stanford University, and father of the modern contraceptive
Pill), Diran Makinde (professor
of veterinary physiology at the University of Venda for Science and Technology,
South Africa), Robert Nilsson
(professor of toxicology at the University of Stockholm), Dr Árpád Pusztai (former
chief scientist at the Rowett Research Institute), Matt Ridley (author of Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience
and What Makes Us Human and Genome:
The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters), Lee Silver (professor of molecular
biology at Princeton University, and author of Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering
and Cloning Will Transform the American Family), Gregory Stock (director of medicine,
technology and society at UCLA, and author of Redesigning Humans: Choosing Our Children's
Genes), and Lewis Wolpert
(professor of biology as applied to medicine at University College London,
and author of The Unnatural Nature
|SURVEY RESULTS IN FULL
|Respondents were asked
the following question:
- What are the most notable scientific,
medical or technological discoveries and achievements that you believe would
have been limited or prevented, if science at the time had been governed
by the precautionary principle? Please list one or more.
- John Adams (professor of geography
at University College London)
'Fire - very dangerous - plus all other useful forms of energy,
such as electricity and microwaves. Energy misdirected can cause harm, and
the precautionary principle requires that if it can be misdirected, you must
assume that it will be. Aspirin - a bottle taken all at once will
kill you. Anything that moves - sudden, unintended stops can be painful.'
- Toby Andrew (genetic statistician
at St Thomas' Hospital, London)
'Advocates of the precautionary principle seek to eliminate unforeseen
risk. This means that any innovation worthy of the name is called into
question. In their day, trains, planes and antibiotics
would have been prevented. Today it's everything from GM crops to
- Sallie Baliunas
(astrophysicist, and enviro-sci host at Tech Central Station)
For Sallie Baliunas' detailed response, click here.
- Simon Best (founder and CEO
of Ardana Bioscience)
'The public supply of electricity and gas - certainly for domestic
use, and probably for all uses. The use of chlorine for chlorination
of drinking water and domestic bleach - "You mean you're going to allow
poison gas into my home?"'
- Dr Nick Birch (senior research
scientist at the Scottish Crop Research Institute)
'The testing of pharmaceutical drugs on humans (for example, for
HIV-positive patients); new surgical procedures (for example, open
- Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen (environmental
policy specialist and editor of the journal Energy and Environment)
'Virtually all scientific and technological discoveries, because
all create, initially at least, powerful losers who can activate the prevailing
ideological and political system against the new.'
- Professor Jim Bridges (chair
of the European Commission's toxicity committee)
'The precautionary principle has been employed widely, without its application
necessarily being acknowledged. For example, the demand to establish virtual
zero risk for any material that could have BSE/TSE contamination is an extreme
precautionary approach in the context of other food risks, that has involved
enormous costs. The ban by the European Union of the use of steroid hormones
as growth promoters in cattle is another example - it has led to a dispute
at the World Trade Organisation, and the USA taking out trade sanctions
against the European Union.
'My biggest and unquantifiable concern, however, is that the precautionary
principle may provide a major disincentive to innovation.'
- Dr Gail Cardew (head of programmes
at the Royal Institution in London)
'Penicillin, 'the wonder drug' was first tested out on a group
of mice injected with a lethal dose of Streptococcus bacteria. Howard
Florey and his co-workers found that only those that had also been injected
with penicillin survived. They then wanted to test the drug directly on
humans, and so they gained permission to inject it into Albert Alexander,
a 43-year-old policeman who had been admitted to Radcliffe Hospital with
'Florey was not able to make enough penicillin to continue treatment,
and so the drug had to be recycled each day from the patient's urine. After
five days, the supply of penicillin that was produced for experimentation
had been used up. There was no more penicillin available, and the policeman
had a relapse and died five days later, giving rise to the phrase 'the treatment
was a success, but the patient died'.
'Were the precautionary principle adopted at the time, penicillin would
not have been given to Albert Alexander after so little testing in animals.
No doubt it would have been tested on other animals, and yet subsequently
penicillin was found to be toxic to guinea pigs. In this scenario, would
we have been too cautious ever to try out 'the wonder drug' on humans?'
- Dr Bruce Charlton (clinical
psychologist and author of Psychiatry and the Human Condition)
'All major medical breakthroughs would have been prevented by the
precautionary principle. I cannot think of any exceptions.'
- Piers Corbyn (meteorologist,
and founder and managing director of Weather Action)
'Ideas in physics. As such, thought cannot be stopped, but certainly
the precautionary principle as applied by the Catholic inquisition limited
inquiry, and would have suppressed Galileo and others. Had they not
stood up, physics and material civilisation might still be waiting
to happen. Steam trains and cars were regarded as dangerous
by many Victorian critics, who wanted them banned.'
- Stuart Derbyshire (assistant
professor of anaesthesiology and critical care medicine at the University
'We could go back a long way and consider whether anyone would
have risked building a fire or rolling on a wheel. But closer
to our current age, there were plenty of critics when the railroads
were being constructed. Some argued that a man would die if he travelled
at 30 miles per hour, and sickness was reported by those who did journey.
'I doubt anyone would have exploded an atomic bomb in the desert,
or built an atomic power station. Nobody would have pursued the sound
barrier, which was reportedly like a brick wall in the sky. And with
the sound barrier intact, who would have pursued rocket power, the
space programme and commercial
'In medicine, once Marie Curie demonstrated the lethality of radiation
through the sacrifice of her own life it is unlikely that many folks would
have been inclined to continue messing with the stuff. No CT scans,
brain imaging, or contrast agents
to examine your guts. The Salk polio vaccine would have never been
used - it was a live vaccine that carried a five percent risk of inflicting
the disease. After the disastrous results of frontal lobotomies few would
have continued to pursue neural lesions as a form of therapy. Today,
lesions of the basal ganglia are a successful therapy for Parkinson's disease.
'Perhaps more important than the past breakthroughs we might have missed,
however, are the future ones we surely will.
'Xenotransplantation could benefit thousands, but is being held
back by ill-founded concerns about porcine retroviruses. Vaccines could be
inside staple foods such as potatoes but are not, because of spurious concerns
about GM food. Unsafe vaccinations
are responsible for many thousands of avoidable infections and deaths every
year. Stem cells and fetal cells
could be employed against devastating and deadly neurological and cardiovascular
disease, but are not, because of medieval beliefs about the sanctity of embryos.
Even drugs to tackle neurological disease are held back, because
of ridiculous fears that a "pharmacological underclass" will be created.
'Will I ever see a serious solution to London's traffic problem in action,
cheap and abundant energy available to my home, or the effective prevention
of earthquakes? Not likely.'
- Carl Djerassi (emeritus professor
of chemistry at Stanford University, and father of the modern contraceptive
'The contraceptive Pill for women. The precautionary principle
is also the principal reason why we still have no such Pill for men.'
- Bill Durodié (senior
research fellow at the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London)
'For starters, X-rays; vaccination; blood transfusions;
the Green Revolution.'
- Dr Ilya Eigenbrot (science communicator
and Faraday lecturer at Imperial College, London)
'All drugs with side effects (practically all drugs from aspirin
to zovirax); all flight; all space travel and space exploration;
the Otto and Diesel internal combustion engines; nuclear
power; the bicycle.'
- Adam Finn (professor of paediatrics
at the Institute of Child Health, University of Bristol)
'Pretty much everything, notably all vaccines, and presumably,
all drugs. There is nothing we do that has no theoretical risk, and nearly
everything carries some actual risk.'
- John Gunn (emeritus professor
of forensic psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, London)
'Electroconvulsive therapy; nuclear power; open-heart
- Jeff Harvey (senior scientist
at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology)
'None. At the same time, the precautionary principle may have helped
to avoid serious problems with respect to new technologies, that we could
not have noticed at the time the new technology was introduced.'
- Jeya Henry (professor of human
nutrition at Oxford Brookes University)
'The use and development of antibiotics, and the use of sulfa
- Lee Hood (president and director
of the Institute for Systems Biology)
'A detailed study of the nature and significance of human polymorphism;
stem cell biology and its implications
- Joe Kaplinsky (patent and technology
'Isaac Newton risked his vision by poking a bodkin beneath his eyeball
to understand how we see. Many pioneers of X-ray medicine died in determining
safe doses - such self sacrifice would never get past ethics committees today.
Jenner's experiments on vaccination would no doubt be condemned for
transferring tissue across species, risking the creation of new human diseases.
As for space travel, people would never have been sent to the moon.
Our knowledge of geology would be much reduced as a result.
'The two most important revolutions of twentieth century pure science
were the discovery of quantum mechanics and the understanding
of biology at a molecular level. The first has led to nuclear technologies,
while the second has opened the way to biotechnology. Since these
are the two key targets of the precautionary principle, it seems logical
that they would have been restricted at an earlier stage.
'But the most important discovery that would never have been made, if
we had all stayed at home, is America - which would not have been
discovered even once.'
- Norman Levitt
(professor of mathematics at Rutgers University, and author of Prometheus
Bedeviled: Science and the Contradictions of Contemporary Culture)
For Norman Levitt's detailed response, click here.
- Diran Makinde (professor of
veterinary physiology at the University of Venda for Science and Technology,
'The motor car; the aeroplane; the discovery of DNA;
gene cloning; satellites;
space stations; moon travels;
the mobile phone; the anti-impotence drug Viagra.'
- John Maule (director of the
Centre for Decision Research at Leeds University)
'Heart transplants in medicine, and the jet engine in engineering.
All scientifically based advances
have some risk, so if one was to apply a total no-risk principle, then there
would be no medical, engineering or similar advances.'
- Johnjoe McFadden (professor
of molecular genetics at the University of Surrey)
'Smallpox eradication via vaccination.'
- Peter McNaughton (Sheild professor
of pharmacology at the University of Cambridge)
'The widespread use of aspirin. This drug has considerable adverse
side-effects, and would never be licensed today. The benefits, however,
are enormous and growing - apart from the well-known treatment for inflammatory
pain, there are uses in cancer, heart disease and prevention of deep vein
thrombosis. As a result of the success of aspirin, many safer alternatives
have been developed - for example, new generation COX2 inhibitors (Vioxx
, Rofecoxib, etc).'
- Vivian Moses (emeritus professor
of microbiology at Queen Mary & Westfield College)
'Electric power; gas power; the use of ploughs; the
use of hoes; agriculture;
smallpox vaccination; milk pasteurisation;
aeroplanes; cars; railways;
- Robert Nilsson (professor of
toxicology at the University of Stockholm)
'The nuclear fission of the uranium 238 isotope by Hahn and Strassmann
in 1938, based on observations by Lise Meitner, that subsequently led to
the development of nuclear energy. And the discovery of DDT
by Paul Hermann Mueller, working at the Geigy laboratories in 1939. DDT
has saved millions of humans from dying of malaria - it is now conveniently
forgotten that DDT eradicated the disease from the entire Mediterranean region,
and that Mueller was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1948 for his
- Ingo Potrykus (emeritus professor
of Plant Sciences at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and the
inventor of Golden Rice)
'The application of the precautionary principle in science is in itself
basically anti-science. Science explores the unknown, and therefore can
a priori not predict the outcome.
'I have invented and developed Golden Rice, a transgenic rice variety
which produces provitamin A and which will substantially contribute to a
reduction in vitamin A malnutrition, thus preventing numerous children from
becoming irreversibly blind. Throughout the work, it could not be guaranteed
that harmful effects could be excluded. Having Golden Rice in hand, we can
exclude this possibility now, but not before we had solved the scientific
- Channapatna Prakash (professor
in plant molecular genetics, director of the Centre for Plant Biotechnology
Research at Tuskegee University)
'Pasteurisation; immunisation; the use of chemicals and
irradiation in crop variety development.'
- Dr Árpád Pusztai
(former chief scientist, Rowett Research Institute)
'I do not think that I could quote you a single instance when the precautionary
principle has prevented progress in scientific experimentation. Scientists
will always do what is possible at the time but unfortunately, in many instances,
they expose us and the environment to the consequences of their work regardless
of the precautionary principle.'
- Matt Ridley (author of Nature
Via Nurture: Genes, Experience and What Makes Us Human and Genome:
The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, and chairman of the International
Centre for Life, Newcastle upon Tyne)
'Agriculture; iron; oil; aspirin; genetic
fingerprinting; radio; steam power; the human genome
- Peter Sammonds (professor of
geophysics at University College London)
'The precautionary principle stopped the construction in the UK of an
underground laboratory to research
disposal of radioactive waste. The consequence is that the UK has no
idea what it is going to do with the accumulating amounts of medium-level
radioactive waste produced by power stations, industry, and hospitals.
'If the precautionary principle had been applied at the beginning of the
civilian nuclear power programme, there would have been no development of
- Todd Seavey (editor of HealthFactsAndFears.com,
and director of publications at the American Council on Science and Health)
'Smallpox vaccination, which plainly used a potentially deadly
substance; organ transplants, which
tended to kill a high number of early patients on whom they were tried; agriculture,
which is one of the biggest alterations ever made to the biosphere (and some
radical environmentalists openly call it a mistake).'
- Lee Silver (professor of molecular
biology at Princeton University, and author of Remaking Eden: How Genetic
Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family)
'The most obvious example is in vitro fertilisation as a
protocol for overcoming infertility. A less obvious, but more poignant, example
is the Green Revolution, which was brought about through a process
of randomly mutating seeds and selecting plants that had enhanced crop characteristics.
There was no way of knowing with absolute certainty whether the random mutagenic
process (done with gamma rays) would produce some kind of 'killer' crop,
that could disrupt ecosystems or have a surreptitious harmful effect on people.
The Green Revolution prevented widespread famine in large areas of Asia.'
- Gregory Stock (director of medicine,
technology and society at UCLA, and author of Redesigning Humans: Choosing
Our Children's Genes)
'I can't think of a single advance that would have occurred under a strict
precautionary regime. This goes all the way back to fire and cooked
food, which are obviously fraught with danger.'
- Professor Philip Stott (emeritus
professor of biogeography at the University of London, and editor-in-chief
of the Journal of Biogeography)
'Vaccination/inoculation; plant domestication; the creation
of cultivated rice and maize; 1920s hybrid corn; railways;
knives; the wheel; the telephone;
electric light bulbs - to name
but a few!'
- Peter Tyrer (professor of community
psychiatry at Imperial College, London)
'The first effective drug in medicine was digitalis, extracted
by William Withering in Birmingham from the foxglove plant (Digitalis
purpurea). It is a highly toxic substance, and if the precautionary
principle had operated in 1780 when it was discovered, its great beneficial
effects on the heart would never have got off the ground.'
- Simon Wessely (professor of
psychological medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry, London)
- Professor Michael Wilson (chief
executive of Horticulture Research International)
'Vaccination; the Green Revolution; electricity;
- Professor Lewis Wolpert (professor
of biology as applied to medicine at University College London, and author
of The Unnatural Nature of Science)
'The work on motion by Galileo and Newton, the basis of ballistics.
Also the periodic table, which leads to nasty bombs.'
- John Zarnecki (professor of
space science at the Open University, and principal investigator of one
of the six experiments on board the Huygens probe, in the Cassini-Huygens
mission to Saturn)
'The use of radio isotope thermal generators (RTGs) for all spacecraft
for the exploration of the outer planets. Once you go beyond the orbit
of Mars, you are too far from the Sun to use solar cells to generate power,
so you normally use RTGs, where a quantity of radioactive material such
as plutonium is employed.
'This has generated some opposition. The concern is that an accident
on launch will contaminate the atmosphere. The major mission I am involved
with, Cassini, is five-and-a-half
years into its seven-year journey to the Saturnian system. Its launch in
1997 was nearly postponed, due to environmental concerns.
'If we had followed the precautionary principle, there would have been
no exploration so far of the outer
Solar System - no Voyager flybys of Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune and
Uranus; no Galileo mission to Jupiter and Europa (with the discovery
of oceans below the surface of Europa, and the possibility of primitive
life existing there).'
- Sallie Baliunas
(astrophysicist, and enviro-sci host at Tech Central Station)
'Start with just the first few of the National Academy of Engineering's
list of the twentieth century's greatest engineering achievements, and apply
the precautionary principle to each one.
'Electrification of the USA - the environmental impact statements
concerning the siting of power plants and transmission lines, and concerning
the air and water pollutants, would still be underway. And all that electricity
is produced by coal and nuclear power. The final vote of the
Precautionary Principle Committee (PPC): no, we cannot electrify the country,
because of the environmental risks.
'The automobile - no way. Stay with horses and burros, whose emissions
are purely organic (although toxic). The aeroplane, similar to the
automobile - infrastructure impact on pristine environments, use of petroleum
products, deaths from crashes, etc. Disallowed, because of demonstrable
negative impacts. Stay with the horseshoe and saddle industries.
'Water supply and distribution - possibly allowed, but with strict
(and expensive) controls on siting, and with rejection of specific applications.
For example, the Hoover Dam, built primarily to control destructive
habitat flooding and secondarily to produce electricity, would have the
undesirable side-effect of encouraging growth in a pristine, unique, irreplaceable,
priceless, delicate, biodiverse ecosystem. Permission even to consider the
Hoover Dam is disallowed.
'Electronics; computers; the telephone; the internet
- some items may be approved, but others are disallowed, such as mobile
phones, which may cause brain cancer. Microwave ovens are also
potentially dangerous. As for computers, the PPC foresees great expansion
of the home market to do wasteful things, like email photos of Rex the family
dog, shop online, and play computer games. All of these rely on fossil
fuels, so are likely to be banned until solar and wind turbines provide
most of the USA's electricity.
'Radio and television - these use electricity, which causes
known environmental havoc. One benefit, though - these may be used to promote
the precautionary principle. Agricultural mechanisation - leave the
land wild, free from the gnashing of the noisy, alien machinery of so-called
civilisation. Air conditioning and refrigeration - there are
two big problems here: electricity use (fossil fuels), and refrigerants
like freon (Antarctic ozone thinning).
'So much for engineering achievements. How about health improvements?
Smallpox immunisation - Edward
Jenner's dangerous experiment (deliberate infection of a human test case,
then use of Jenner's inoculation, untested for safety), plus the fact that
smallpox vaccination has known risks associated with it, rule out smallpox
immunisation. Immunisation against other scourges - a similar ruling
to that for smallpox. No vaccination is completely harmless.
'The contraceptive Pill - this may be associated with increased
risk of some cancers. DDT - this has saved so many lives from arthropod-borne
infectious diseases, that the National Academy of Sciences wrote in 1970:
'To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT.' But it
was hypothesised that DDT may cause breast cancer, reduction in raptor population,
biomagnification 'up the food chain', and other shopworn mantras, so it
is disallowed. (Note to PPC: the known destruction of raptors by wind
turbines means that they, too, should be disallowed under precaution.)
'And what about agricultural improvements to feed humankind? Hybrid
crops - these are all human-made freaks of nature, that cannot be loosed
upon the ecosystem. Anhydrous ammonia fertiliser - although this allows
high yields of some crops, it is artificial. Manure, a harmonious organic
fertiliser, is preferred under precaution.' (Return
- Norman Levitt
(professor of mathematics at Rutgers University, and author of
Prometheus Bedeviled: Science and the Contradictions
of Contemporary Culture)
'As far as biomedicine grows, the picture is rather chilling. Carl Djerassi,
inventor of the contraceptive Pill, has declared that had he been
forced to deal with the restrictions and interference that are commonplace
these days in biomedical research, he would never have set to work on the
birth control project.
'On a more speculative level, it is obvious that vaccination -
from smallpox, to rabies,
to polio and measles - would have had a difficult time emerging
as a standard preventative and curative technique, had it been confronted
by a rigorous precautionary principle. In such a scenario, the ultimate
toll in human lives is almost incalculable.
'Likewise, some medical techniques that are now commonplace - open-heart
surgery, for instance - once had to pass through a 'heroic' stage, which
would have been blockaded by a strong precautionary principle. The same
is probably true of many of our standard diagnostic techniques, specifically
X-rays, and related methods like
CAT scans, NMR imaging,
and so forth.
'Methods of insect control and suppression of other biological
vectors in parasitic disease - malaria, for instance - would never have
been put in place under a precautionary regime. Fears of conjectural health
risk from the pesticides themselves, as well as environmental concerns,
would have swamped the valid arguments for the employment of such techniques.
When DDT became unavailable because of pressure from environmentalists concerned
with wildlife, malaria control projects collapsed worldwide, with horrid
'At a more basic level, research programs in molecular biology
would have been badly crippled. The now-standard tricks associated with
'genetic engineering' - restriction enzymes and the polymerase
chain reaction - would have had a difficult time making their way into
the armamentarium of investigators.
'Turning to technology, many everyday devices that we (rightly) use without
much thought of danger would have been stifled or delayed by a precautionary
principle. Radar was developed and perfected under the pressure of
military necessity, but if peacetime conditions had prevailed along with
the precautionary ethos, radar would never have become commonplace. High-powered
radar emits microwaves at sufficient intensity to harm or kill anyone standing
directly in front of the antenna.
'By the same token, I doubt that the system of high-voltage power grids,
standard in the industrial world, would ever have been allowed to take shape
- despite the fact that no serious evidence has ever emerged that low-frequency
electromagnetic radiation is harmful. Thinking even further back, it's doubtful
that precautionists would ever have allowed the standard system of alternating
current for household use to be put in place - we all know how easy
it is to get a lethal shock from an electrical outlet!
'Coming back to pure science, precautionism would have strangled research
in high-energy particle physics, which depends on huge, powerful devices
generating super-intense beams of particles, that would be deadly to anyone
standing in the way (which no one has ever done, of course). Instruments
like the particle accelerators at CERN, Fermilab, and Stanford would
never have been approved by monitors applying a strong version of the precautionary
principle. This kind of skittishness actually played a role in the quashing
of the superconducting supercollider.' (Return