Great Big Hairy Bees! Regulating the European Bumblebee, Bombus Terrestris L. What does it say about the Precautionary Principle?
The previous Commonwealth Minister for the Environment, Mr Garrett, recently rejected a request to allow the importation of live bumblebees (Bombus terrestris L.) to mainland Australia. New South Wales and Victoria had already listed the introduction of bumblebees as, respectively, a key threatening process and a potentially threatening process. The Commonwealth, however, had previously declined an application to list the introduction of bumblebees as a key threatening process, although its Threatened Species Scientific Committee urged ‘that extreme caution be shown in considering any proposal to introduce this species to the mainland.’ The potential threat from bumblebees would appear to beg the questions posed by the precautionary principle. Would the presence of bumblebees to mainland Australia pose a threat of serious or irreversible environmental damage? Should a lack of full scientific certainty be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation? This paper considers the role of the precautionary principle in regulatory approaches to the bumblebee. It seeks to establish the application of the precautionary principle to this particular potential environmental threat, including its relationship to the principle of conservation of biological diversity. It concludes that, despite widespread adoption of the precautionary principle in policy, legislation and case law in Australia, its impact on regulating bumblebees has not been consistent.
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