Credit for Codex decision?

In your post commenting on the rejection by Codex of the use of the Precautionary Principle, I’d like to point out that giving the dietary supplement industry and users chief credit for beating back the PP is certainly true for their efforts over the past few years. However, when the issue was first raised with Codex in 1999-2000, my recollection is that they were not very active in trying to influence the U.S. delegation to Codex to take a firm stand. On the other hand, the free-market consumer group, Consumer Alert (now not active), regularly took part in public meetings of the U.S. delegation to Codex where the issues were fiercely debated, filed official comments, and registered its affiliate International Consumers for Civil Society as an INGO with Codex.

Here’s a link to Consumer Alert’s official comments, October 6, 2000, on the Precautionary Principle to the U.S. delegation and a short excerpt from its comments.

Summary. The precautionary principle is seriously and irremediably flawed, and the U S Delegation to the Committee on Food Hygiene should reject its inclusion in the guidelines. Consumer Alert would urge the U S Delegations to other Codex committees, especially the Committee on General Principles, to challenge any inclusion of the precautionary principle in Codex documents, for the following reasons

The PP —

  • Is a vague and nebulous concept
  • Biases decision-making against innovation
  • Does not recognize that there are risk trade-offs
  • Its application paradoxically can create risks
  • Can create a “moral hazard” problem
  • Formal use of the PP threatens developing countries’ progress made under a more open trading system

Full disclosure: I headed Consumer Alert during that period.