Pin Me

Genetic Pollution – Does it Really Have Meaning?

written by: •edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 7/11/2008

Genetic Pollution describes one risk of genetic engineering, but it is a useless term to many in the scientific communities. It is a matter of controversy for many scientists over what the term actually means and if it is harmful.

  • slide 1 of 1

    When we think about the term pollution, we think about environmental pollution, city pollution, and hazardous pollution, generally considering it a strictly environmental concern. But pollution also has implications to genetics. It has been a highly controversial and much debated topic. There are a lot of different views not only on the ethics and risks of genetic pollution, but on the name and term of genetic pollution itself.  For years, scientists have been debating whether or not the term genetic pollution should even be used.

    Genetic pollution is defined as the undesirable gene flow out into populations in the wild. It typically refers to the flow of genetic material from a genetically engineered organism to that of a non genetically engineered organism. Although, some conservational biologists refer to it when describing the gene flow from a feral or domestic species to that of a wild or unknown population or species.

    No matter how you look at or interrupt the term, to many scientists it is merely a meaningless concept and nothing but a subject of controversy in the scientific world. The term seems to have derived from the concept of crossbreeding between different genetically different varieties and creating a hybrid with the rest of the genes. There were significant concerns with what would happen to the population from this process of modifying organisms and spreading their genes out into a wild environment from their natural environment.

    In the field of agriculture, genetic pollution is being used to describe certain undesirable genes that flow between the genetic engineered species and the non-genetic engineered species. There is a lot of concern regarding what the long-term effects of this kind of genetic mastery will have and the repercussions that it will leave in its wake. Many scientists and researchers have been and continue to be concerned with this risk as they are unsure what will happen to the future generations of these species that have been tampered with and had hybrids made out of them.

    Some scientists wish to not even use or refer to the term genetic pollution. They state it should be called something more like genetic mixing, which suggests that the reasons for mixing the genes of different species is for the good of the population and scientific community. The implications of using the word pollution associated with genetics implies it to be a negative thing.