‘Precautionary Principle’ Triggers EU Atrazine Ban

Published May 1, 2007

Since 1979, the European Union (EU) has enforced a safety standard of .01 ppb for all pesticides, even if here have been favorable safety reviews as was the case with atrazine.

Unlike the United States, which bases regulatory decisions on risk assessments such as the ones EPA carried out on atrazine, the EU is guided by the precautionary principle.

The difference between the two approaches is significant.

“The so-called precautionary principle,” Washington State University toxicologist Alan S. Felsot said, “essentially holds that when any concerns or allegations, no matter how spurious, are raised about the safety of a product, precautionary measures should be put in place and all burden of proof to the contrary should fall on the proponent of the alleged unsafe product or activity.”

“Environmentalist calls to ban atrazine are environmentally irresponsible,” said Angela Logomasini, director of risk and environmental policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

“The risks of atrazine are minimal and the benefits many,” Logomasini continued. “Proper use of herbicides–particularly atrazine–reduces the need to till soil, thereby reducing soil erosion. It is also a critically important tool for farmers to produce an affordable supply of fruits and vegetables.”

Bonner R. Cohen