Open main menu

Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle

The Wingspread Consensus Statement on the Precautionary Principle

The release and use of toxic substances, the exploitation of resources, and physical alterations of the environment have had substantial unintended consequences affecting human health and the environment. Some of these concerns are high rates of learning deficiencies, asthma, cancer, birth defects and species extinctions; along with global climate change, stratospheric ozone depletion and worldwide contamination with toxic substances and nuclear materials.

We believe existing environmental regulations and other decisions, particularly those based on risk assessment, have failed to protect adequately human health and the environment - the larger system of which humans are but a part.

We believe there is compelling evidence that damage to humans and the worldwide environment is of such magnitude and seriousness that new principles for conducting human activities are necessary.

While we realize that human activities may involve hazards, people must proceed more carefully than has been the case in recent history. Corporations, government entities, organizations, communities, scientists and other individuals must adopt a precautionary approach to all human endeavors.

Therefore, it is necessary to implement the Precautionary Principle: When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.

The process of applying the Precautionary Principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action.

Conference Partners

The Wingspread Conference on the Precautionary Principle was convened by the Science and Environmental Health Network, an organization that links science with the public interest, and by the Johnson Foundation, the W. Alton Jones Foundation, the C.S. Fund and the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.

Wingspread Participants:

Dr. Nicholas Ashford


Katherine Barrett

Univ. of British Columbia

Anita Bernstein

Chicago-Kent College of Law

Dr. Robert Costanza

Univ. of Maryland

Pat Costner


Dr. Carl Cranor

Univ. of California, Riverside

Dr. Peter deFur

Virginia Commonwealth Univ.

Gordon Durnil


Dr. Kenneth Geiser

Toxics Use Reduction Inst., Univ. of Mass., Lowell

Dr. Andrew Jordan

Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment, Univ. Of East Anglia

Andrew King

United Steelworkers of America, Canadian Office

Dr. Frederick Kirschenmann


Stephen Lester

Center for Health, Environment and Justice

Sue Maret

Union Inst.

Dr. Michael M'Gonigle

Univ. of Victoria, British Columbia

Dr. Peter Montague

Environmental Research Foundation

Dr. John Peterson Myers

W. Alton Jones Foundation

Dr. Mary O'Brien

Environmental Consultant

Dr. David Ozonoff

Boston Univ.

Carolyn Raffensperger

Science and Environmental Health Network

Dr. Philip Regal

Univ. of Minnesota

Hon. Pamela Resor

Massachusetts House of Representatives

Florence Robinson

Louisiana Environmental Network

Dr. Ted Schettler

Physicians for Social Responsibility

Ted Smith

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition

Dr. Klaus-Richard Sperling

Alfred-Wegener- Institut, Hamburg

Dr. Sandra Steingraber


Diane Takvorian

Environmental Health Coalition

Joel Tickner

Univ. of Mass., Lowell

Dr. Konrad von Moltke

Dartmouth College

Dr. Bo Wahlstrom

KEMI (National Chemical Inspectorate), Sweden

Jackie Warledo

Indigenous Environmental Network

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License. In short: you are free to distribute and modify the file as long as you attribute its author(s) or licensor(s). This page must provide all available authorship information.