In this article we argue that the precautionary principle, as applied to the regulation of science and technology, cannot be considered in any general manner inconsistent with the norms and methods of scientific knowledge generation and justification. Moreover, it does not necessarily curtail scientific‐technological innovation. Our argument flows from a differentiated view of what precaution in regulation means. We first characterize several of the most relevant interpretations given to the precautionary principle in academic debate and regulatory practice. We then use examples of actual precaution‐based regulation to show that, even though science can have varying functions in different circumstances and frames, all of those interpretations recur to scientific method and knowledge, and tend to imply innovation in methods, products, and processes. In fact, the interplay of regulation and innovation in precautionary policy, at least in the case of the interpretations of precaution that our analysis takes into account, could be understood as a way of reconciling the two fundamental science and technology policy functions of promotion and control.