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Heads up. The "Precautionary Principle" is coming to a law near you. It aspires to answer a timeless question: how should society in general, and regulatory authorities in particular, respond to uncertain risks? This chapter addresses the normative and positive implications of adopting the Precautionary Principle. Whereas many analyses have compared precautionary versus reactive regulatory strategies as applied to individual risks taken one at a time, this chapter examines precaution in a world of multiple risks. It distinguishes different versions of the Precautionary Principle, some of which are more sensible than others. It suggests that precaution against one risk may induce other countervailing risks, so that the ideal is a middle ground of "optimal precaution" rather than maximum precaution. It observes that real-world applications of the Precautionary Principle, in both the US and Europe, have often been sensitive to this reality and therefore have moderated the degree of precaution as the legal instrument gains more regulatory teeth and as the countervailing risks rise.

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