Friday, February 25, 2005

What colour green did you say you wanted?

To the European Chemical Industry, pondering gloomily on what the European Commission’s Reach (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) will mean, the Green movement must seem like a monolithic mass.

This view would be wrong.

There are divisions and many different shades of green.

There are still many, such as Frederique Ries, the European Parliament's rapporteur, who believe in the Precautionary Principle. Put bluntly this means that if there is the slightest chance of a risk, then something should be prohibited.

On page 12 of the report on the Action Plan, Frederique Ries says 'it is regrettable... that none of the actions is based on the precautionary principle.' The key word here is 'regrettable'. This means I AM VERY ANGRY ABOUT THIS! but I have been trained to say 'regrettable' in print. Frederique Ries continues in the same paragraph 'An approach that makes absolute scientific evidence the paradigm for 21st Century clearly goes against common sense: a product that is dangerous for health and the environment should not continue to be sold.' So bad news for the Tiger then, which is high in risk to human health, especially when its hungry.

Frederique Ries quotes the viridian-hued Margot Walstrom: 'There are certain areas where we cannot risk waiting until our knowledge is complete, but need to act according to the precautionary principle.

Greenpeace, on the other hand is all for scientific proof; if only because it will allow complete families of materials to be deemed dangerous and ripe for replacement. This view is more likely to win the respect of the chemicals industry, which has consistently, in Europe at least, tried to argue the indispensability of chemicals based on facts.

Take heart. The Commission and Greenpeace agree to have the debate on your terms.

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