Thursday, September 25, 2003

Salt and vinegar moratorium?

An enlightening commentary by Bill Durodié, a senior research fellow at the International Policy Institute, King's College, London, over at Tech Central Station. He comments on proposed European Commission legislation that would require testing, until 2012, of "all existing, unregistered substances." It sounds reasonable, until you look a bit deeper. I'll let Durodié explain:

    But a focus on narrowly political or economic motives misses the broader cultural trend that drives these matters and that will make the debate over chemicals more, rather than less, central in the coming years. That trend is the growing aversion to risk that is now manifest across society as a whole.

    A meeting of science and industry experts recently hosted by the Science Media Centre at the Royal Institution in London pointed to some of the more ludicrous consequences of what is being proposed. Salt and vinegar for instance, have been around and in use for quite some time prior to 1981. Under the new proposals, they too would have to be subjected to rigorous testing lest they prove more toxic than we already know, and in order to harmonize procedures. In short, by asking for an across-the-board approach to some 30,000 chemicals, all sense of appropriate prioritization has gone out of the window.

To that, I'd only add that somewhere between recklessness and risk aversion, there needs to be room for reason.

Update: The European Commission is softening the proposed rule.


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