Summary: Acceptance of the precautionary principle has grown from its historic roots in Germany to encompass virtually every European Community Member State and institution, including the Court of Justice. However, this broad support belies notable uncertainty regarding the principle's true meaning and standards of application at both the Community and Member State level. Similar ambiguities exist in the United States. United States regulators frequently employ precautionary standards but do so without explaining the rationale for their approach or drawing upon the lessons of their European colleagues.
These uncertainties are to be expected from a concept as intrinsically vague and indeterminate as the precautionary principle. However, they make it exceedingly difficult to incorporate the principle into the current Doha round of trade negotiations. Simply put, if a negotiator is not certain of her own position, how can she most effectively argue the merits of her position to others? United States and European authorities should therefore regroup and decide for themselves precisely what the principle means, and how it should be implemented, before debating its merits in the current round of WTO negotiations.European Energy and Environmental Law Review