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The precautionary principle calls for early measures to avoid and mitigate environmental damage and health hazards in the face of uncertainty. It has been invoked in various fields of risk debates and decision making, most commonly in environmental law and policy. Examples include marine and fisheries protection, the conservation of the natural environment and biodiversity, climate change and global warming policies, chemicals regulation and the protection of the ozone layer, the risk governance of modern biotechnology, and the risk debate over nanotechnology.

The essence of taking precautions is captured by some English proverbs such as “better safe than sorry” and “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Generally speaking, the precautionary principle says that if in doubt, decide in favor of the environment. ...

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