Case Study 3: Endocrine Disruptors

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are at the centre stage of a scientific and regulatory controversy.  Chemicals shown to have endocrine disrupting effects have mostly been man-made. They were originally engineered so as to produce benefits most importantly – but not exclusively – for industry and agriculture, households and consumers, as well as for medical and personal health care.

Case Study 2: Genetically Modified organisms (GMOs)

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are the product of advanced biotechnology and are non-naturally occurring plants, animals and microorganisms whose genomes have been altered intentionally and artificially. The modification is typically achieved by inserting a gene from another, often unrelated, organism into the DNA of the host, with the intention of introducing a new trait. Despite their numerous applications, commonly GMOs are most frequently associated with crops and foods.

Case Study 4: Neonicotinoid insecticides

In Europe, hundreds of different pesticides are allowed in farming to control fungi (fungicides), weeds (herbicides) and plague insects (insecticides) that may harm the crop. Among them are Neonicotinoid insecticides (in short: neonics) that, due to the risk they pose for the environment and pollinating insects in particular, are regulated through the precautionary principle.

Case Study on Glyphosate

Glyphosate is one of the world’s most widely used herbicides, used in European agriculture to control weeds in a wide range of crops. The substance’s license was recently renewed, causing outrage and controversy due to its assumed connection to carcinogenic effects on humans and animals. Studies have both proven and disproven these carcinogenic effects, calling into question whether the substance should be discontinued until full safety is established.

Case Study on Microplastics in Food and Cosmetic Products

Microplastics are small pieces of plastics, usually defined as smaller than 5 millimeters. They enter the environment via two routes. Primary microplastics are intentionally added to products, as is done in cosmetic products, to increase certain product characteristics. Secondary microplastics, which constitute the biggest part of the environmental pollution, are pieces of plastic that break down from larger plastics as used for example in packaging materials.

Taking stock of the precautionary principle since 2000

The precautionary principle is supposed to enable decision-makers to adopt precautionary measures even if scientific uncertainties about environmental and health risks remain. However, opinions about the precautionary principle are divided. To some, it is unscientific and an obstacle to progress. To others, it is a necessary tool to protect human health and the environment.