The precautionary principle
The need for further research is not a valid argument. It goes against the precautionary principle (France’s 1995 Barnier Law), under which “the lack of certainty, given current scientific and technical knowledge, should not hinder the adoption of effective (…) measures to prevent the risk of serious and irreversible damage to the environment.
The precautionary principle has binding power under EU law. Cf. Art. 174 (2) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (2002), which stipulates that European environmental policy “shall be based on the precautionary principle” and on the principle “that preventive action should be taken” to ensure “a high level of protection” for the environment.
The precautionary principle is reaffirmed in Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 of 20 December 2002 on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy: “Given that many fish stocks continue to decline, the Common Fisheries Policy should be improved to ensure the long-term viability of the fisheries sector through sustainable exploitation of living aquatic resources based on sound scientific advice and on the precautionary approach, which is based on the same considerations as the precautionary principle referred to in Article 174 of the Treaty.”
Article 110-1 of the Environmental Code makes reference to the precautionary principle according to which “the lack of certainty, given current scientific and technical knowledge, should not hinder the adoption of effective and proportionate measures to prevent the risk of serious and irreversible damage to the environment.”
The French Environmental Charter (Constitutional Law n° 2005-205 of 1st March 2005) accords constitutional value to the precautionary principle and emphasizes the duty of individuals, as well as the public authorities and sectors concerned (such as research and education), to protect the environment. (Art. 2. All people have the duty to help conserve and protect the environment. Art. 9. Research and innovation must contribute to the conservation and enhancement of the environment.) In France, environmental protection is becoming a constitutional duty of equal importance to respecting the rights of others. It “must be pursued in the same way as the fundamental interests of the Nation.”
The UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks calls for States to apply the precautionary approach “widely” (Art. 6.1). This extremely comprehensive agreement is analyzed in greater detail in the document (3rdpart, on the legal framework and the application of the law).