To use all functions of this page, please activate cookies in your browser.
With an accout for my.bionity.com you can always see everything at a glance – and you can configure your own website and individual newsletter.
- My watch list
- My saved searches
- My saved topics
- My newsletter
Genetic pollution is a term that has become popularized to describe the undesirable gene flow into wild populations. The term is usually associated with the gene flow from a genetically engineered (GE) organism (or genetically modifed organism - GMO) to a non GE organism, however, conservationists sometimes use it to describe gene flow from a domestic, feral, non-native or invasive species to a wild population.
The term genetic pollution was popularized by environmentalist Jeremy Rifkin in his 1998 book The Biotech Century. While intentional crossbreeding between two genetically distinct varieties is described as hybridization with the subsequent introgression of genes, Rifkin used genetic pollution to describe the risks that might occur due the unintentional process of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) dispersing their genes into the natural environment by breeding with wild plants or animals.
The usage of genetic pollution by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is currently defined as:
In a 10 years study of four different crops, none of the genetically modified plants were found to be more invasive or more persistent than their conventional counterparts. An often cited example of genetic pollution is the reputed discovery of transgenes from GE maize in landraces of maize in Oaxaca, Mexico. The report from Quist and Chapela,  has since been discredited on methodological grounds.  The scientific journal that originally published the study concluded that "the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper."  More recent attempts to replicate the original studies have concluded that genetically modified corn is absent from southern Mexico in 2003 and 2004. 
While in the field of agriculture, agroforestry and animal husbandry genetic pollution is being used to describe the undesirable gene flow between GE species and wild relatives; some conservationists are using the term to describe the undesirable gene flow from domestic, feral, non-native and invasive species into indigenous species. For example, TRAFFIC is the international wildlife trade monitoring network which works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. They promote the awareness of the harmful effects of introduced invasive species that may "hybridize with native species, causing genetic pollution". The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) is the statutory adviser to the Government of United Kingdom and international nature conservation. Its work contributes to maintaining and enriching biological diversity and educating about the harmful effects of the introduction of invasive/non-native species. In this context they have advised that invasive species "will alter the genetic pool (a process called genetic pollution), which is an irreversible change.”
Whether genetic pollution or similar terms, such as “genetic deterioration”, “genetic swamping”, “genetic takeover” and “genetic aggression”, are an appropriate scientific description of the biology of invasive species is debatable. Hymer and Simberloff argue that these types of terms "...imply either that hybrids are less fit than the parentals, which need not be the case, or that there is an inherent value in “pure” gene pools".  They recommend that gene flow from invasive species be termed genetic mixing since “ "Mixing" need not be value-laden, and we use it here to denote mixing of gene pools whether or not associated with a decline in fitness".  Even environmentalists such as Patrick Moore, an ex-member and cofounder of Greenpeace, questions if the term genetic pollution is more politcal than scientific. In and interview he comments:
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Genetic_pollution". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|