The Politics of Precaution: Regulating Health, Safety, and Environmental Risks in Europe and the United States

By David Vogel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Transatlantic Shift in Regulatory Stringency

IN 1962, THE UNITED STATES1 enacted regulations for the approval of drugs that were more stringent than those of Great Britain and Germany.

In 1969, the United States banned the artificial sweetener cyclamate, which remains permitted in each member state of the European Union.2

In 1975, catalytic converters were required for all new cars sold in the United States; they were required for all new cars sold in the EU beginning in 1992.

In 1979, the plant-growth regulator Alar was banned in the United States; all but one European country as well as the EU permits its use.

In 1985, the EU prohibited the administration of growth hormones to beef cattle; the United States allows them.

In 1989, the United States eliminated the use of lead in gasoline/petrol. The EU ended its use of this fuel additive in 2005.

Since 1992, the United States has approved more than one hundred genetically modified (GM) varieties for planting, feed, or food; the EU has approved twenty-eight, most of which are not in commercial use. Virtually all processed food in the United States contains GM ingredients, while virtually none sold in the EU does.

In 1997, the EU ratified the Kyoto Protocol, which committed its member states to reduce their emissions of six greenhouse gases (GHG); the United States has not done so.

In 1999, the EU banned the use of six phthalates in children’s products; the United States adopted a similar restriction in 2008.

In 2003, the EU banned the use of six hazardous materials in electrical and electronic products beginning in 2006; the United States still permits their use.

1 Unless otherwise noted, the “United States” or the “U.S.” refers to the American federal government.

2 The term “European Union” did not formally come into use until 1993, when it was adopted as part of the Treaty on European Union or “Maastricht” Treaty signed in 1992; prior to that date, the EU was called the European Economic Community or EEC. However, for purposes of clarity, I have chosen to use the current name throughout the text, though some quotations refer to the “Community” or the “European Community.”

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