The Productivity Commission Staff Working Paper, "Precaution and the Precautionary Principle: two Australian case studies" by Annette Weier and Paul Loke, was released in September 2007. The Precautionary Principle was conceived as a response to the inherent difficulties faced by decision makers confronted with uncertain potential outcomes. Its purpose is to remove uncertainty as an obstacle to addressing potential environmental and health hazards. However, much confusion surrounds the Principle and its role in decision making under uncertainty. This paper examines two Australian case studies where precaution has been an important element in decision making - fisheries management and licensing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). It considers three key issues: the basis for precautionary decision making; how precaution has been applied in practice; and whether (and how) the Precautionary Principle contributed to precautionary decision making. The views expressed in this paper are those of the staff involved and do not necessarily reflect those of the Productivity Commission. This paper develops further some themes initially canvassed in the Presidential Address to the 2006 Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society conference presented by Deborah Peterson, and subsequently published in the "Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics."


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