Journal of Consumer Policy

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 453–464 | Cite as

The Behavioural Law and Economics of the Precautionary Principle in the EU and Its Impact on Internal Market Regulation

  • Kai Purnhagen
Original Paper


The precautionary principle contributes to “the social” of internal market regulation as it counterbalances the loss aversion and availability bias of regulators who may too hastily endorse measures based to further the fundamental freedoms instead of fundamental rights and environmental protection. The precautionary principle also enhances the regulatory power of the European Union. By way of regulating via the precautionary principle, EU institutions pretend to have answers to citizen’s fears. These fears result from a crisis of causality, as society is trying to find a meaning to what sometimes appears as a series of patternless events. The EU legal order takes advantage of these effects. It creates an image of being able to cope with these fears, although it is rather questionable whether they really can live up to these expectations.


Precautionary principle Internal market regulation Behavioural law and economics EU law 



This paper has been benefitted from the comments of the two anonymous reviewers as well as from the comments received in the framework of the EDLE seminar at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam Law School and the presentation at Wageningen University. Particularly, Alexandre Biard, Michael Faure, Arnout Fischer, Louis Visscher, Bernd van der Meulen, and Maria Pia Sacco and the two anonymous reviewers deserve gratitude.


  1. Alemanno, A. (2011). Annotation of European Court of Justice case C-79/09 (sic!), Gowan Comércio Internacional e Serviços Lda v. Ministero Della Salute (Precautionary Principle). Common Market Law Review, 48, 1329–1348.Google Scholar
  2. Anker, H., & Grossman, M. (2009). Authorization of genetically modified organisms: precaution in US and EC Law. European Food and Feed Law Review, 1, 3–23.Google Scholar
  3. Barnard, C. (2011). EU ‘social’ policy: From employment law to labour market reform. In P. Craig & G. de Burca (Eds.), The evolution of EU Law (pp. 641–686). Oxford: University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barnard, C. (2013). The substantive law of the EU (4th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boehmer-Christiansen, S. (1994). The precautionary principle in Germany enabling government. In T. O’Riordan & J. Cameron (Eds.), Interpreting the precautionary principle (pp. 31–60). London: Cameron May.Google Scholar
  6. Brooks, G. (2008). Economic impacts of low level presence of not yet approved GMOs on the EU food sector. Briefing document. available at
  7. Collman, J. P. (2001). Naturally dangerous. Sausalito: University Science Books.Google Scholar
  8. Dana, D. (2003). A behavioral economic defense of the precautionary principle. Northwestern University Law Review, 97, 1315–1347.Google Scholar
  9. de Burca, G. (2011). The evolution of EU human rights law. In P. Craig & G. de Burca (Eds.), The Evolution of EU Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. de Sadeleer, N. (2002). Environmental principles: From political slogans to legal rules. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dörner, D. (1996). The logic of failure: Recognizing and avoiding error in complex situations. New York: Metropolitan Books.Google Scholar
  12. Downes, C. (2014). The Impact of WTO SPS Law on EU Food Regulations. New York, London, Dordrecht, Berlin, Cham: Springer.Google Scholar
  13. Eckley, N., & Selin, H. (2004). All talk little action: precaution and the European chemicals regulation. Journal of European Public Policy, 11, 78–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fisher, E. (2002). Precaution, precaution everywhere: developing a “common understanding” of the precautionary principle in the European community. Maastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law, 7–28.Google Scholar
  15. Fisher, E. (2007). Risk regulation and administrative constitutionalism. Oxford: Hart.Google Scholar
  16. Furedi, F. (2009). Precautionary culture and the rise of possibilistic risk assessment. Erasmus Law Review, 2, 197–220.Google Scholar
  17. Hansen, S., Carlsen, L., & Tickner, J. (2007). Chemicals regulation and precaution: does REACH really incorporate the precautionary principle. Environmental Science & Policy, 10, 395–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heyvaert, V. (2006a). Facing the consequences of the precautionary principle in European Community law. European Law Review, 31, 185–206.Google Scholar
  19. Heyvaert, V. (2006b). Guidance without constraint. Assessing the impact of the precautionary principle on the European Community’s chemical policy. In T. Etty (Ed.), Yearbook of European Environmental Law, 6 (pp. 27–60). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Ladeur, K.-H. (2003). The introduction of the precautionary principle into EU Law: a pyrrhic victory for environmental and public health law? Decision-making under conditions of complexity in multi-level political systems. Common Market Law Review, 40, 1455–1479.Google Scholar
  21. Leinen, J. (2012). Risk governance and the precautionary principle: recent cases in the environment, public health and food safety (ENVI) committee. European Journal of Risk Regulation, 3, 169–173.Google Scholar
  22. Lenaerts, K. (2004). In the Union we trust. Trust-enhancing principles of Community law. Common Market Law Review, 41, 317–343.Google Scholar
  23. Majone, G. (2002). What price safety? The precautionary principle and its policy implications. Journal of Common Market Studies, 40, 89–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McGee, A., & Weatherill, S. (1990). The evolution of the single market: harmonisation or liberalisation. The Modern Law Review, 53, 578–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Neergaard, U., Nielsen, R., & Roseberry, L. (Eds.). (2010). The role of courts in developing a European social model. Copenhagen: DJØF Publishing.Google Scholar
  26. Nourse, V., & Shaffer, G. (2009). Varieties of new legal realism: can a new world order prompt a new legal theory? Cornell Law Review, 95, 61–137.Google Scholar
  27. Purnhagen, K. (2013), Systematization in EU Product Safety Regulation. Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer.Google Scholar
  28. Rehbinder, E. (1994). The precautionary principle in an international perspective. In E. M. Basse (Ed.), Miljørettens Grundspørgsmål: bidrag til en nordisk forskeruddannelse. Copenhagen: Gad.Google Scholar
  29. Rottenstreich, Y., & Hsee, C. (2001). Money, kisses, and electric shocks: on the affective psychology of risk. Psychological Science, 12, 185–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sachs, N. (2011). Rescuing the strong precautionary principle from its critics. University of Illinois Law Review, 4, 1285–1338.Google Scholar
  31. Slovic, P. (2000). The perception of risk. London: Routlege.Google Scholar
  32. Sunstein, C. (2003). Beyond the precautionary principle. University of Pennsylvania Law Review, 151, 1003–1058.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sunstein, C. (2006). Laws of fear. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Sunstein, C. (Winter 2002–2003). The paralyzing principle. Regulation, 32–37.Google Scholar
  35. Szajkowska, A. (2012). Regulating food law (doctoral dissertation, Wageningen University, 2012). Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Szajkowska, A.; van der Meulen, B. (2014), Science-based governance? EU food regulation submitted to risk analysis. In M. Fenwick, S. van Uytsel, & S. Wrbka (Eds.), Networked Governance, Transnational Business and the Law (pp. 57–81) Cham, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London: Springer.Google Scholar
  37. Szawlowska, K. (2004). Risk assessment in the European food safety regulation: who is to decide whose science is better? Commission v. France and beyond…. German Law Journal, 5, 1259–1274.Google Scholar
  38. Thaler, R. (1995). Quasi-rational economics. New York: Russel Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  39. Trappenburg, M., & Schiffelers, M.-J. (2012). How to escape the vicious circle: the challenges of risk regulation reflex. European Journal of Risk Regulation, 3, 283–291.Google Scholar
  40. Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1982). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. In D. Kahneman, P. Slovic, & A. Tversky (Eds.), Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases (pp. 3–22). New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. van der Meulen, B., Bremmers, J., Wijnands, J., & Poppe, K. (2012). Structural precaution: the application of premarket approval schemes in EU food legislation. Food and Drug Law Journal, 67, 453–473.Google Scholar
  42. van der Meulen, B.; Bremmers, H.; Purnhagen, K.; Gupta, N.; Bouwmeester, H., Geyer, L. L. (2014), Governing Nano Foods. Principles-Based Responsive Regulation. Amsterdam, Boston, Heidelberg, London, New York, Oxford, Paris, San Diego, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  43. Wibisana, M. R. A. G. (2008). Law and Economic Analysis of the Precautionary Principle (Doctoral dissertation University of Maastricht, 2008).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Law and Governance Group, Social Sciences GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenNetherlands
  2. 2.Rotterdam Institute of Law and EconomicErasmus University of RotterdamRotterdamNetherlands

Personalised recommendations