Genetic Pollution

What is Genetic Pollution?

Genetic pollution is the introduction of genetically modified genes from a genetically engineered (GE) species into other organisms.

GE species contain genes transferred from unrelated species. These may come from viruses, bacteria, other plants, or even animals. If these 'foreign' genes are then transferred into other organisms, this causes genetic pollution of the natural gene pool.

Origin of the Term “Genetic Pollution”

The term was initially mentioned as a part of a review on the subject "potential ecological effects of genetic engineering," which was published in The Ecologist magazine in 1989. Later, it was popularized by environmentalist Jeremy Rifkin in his book The Biotech Century (1998).

How does Genetic Pollution Affect Biodiversity?

Genetically engineered organisms, once released in the environment, can interact with other life forms, reproduce, transfer their characteristics, and mutate in response to external influences. Genetic pollution may be passed on to all future generations of life.

How to Prevent Genetic Pollution?

To ensure the prevention of genetic pollution, there must be:

1. No commercial releases of genetically modified crops until it is clear they do not cause genetic pollution.
2. Independent assessment of the environmental impact that avoids planting genetically modified crops as far as possible.
3. Field tests restricted to the assessment of the ecological impact on properly contained sites.
4. Coexistence rules which aim for no detectable contamination of neighboring crops and strict liability on biotech companies for any harm arising from the release of their products.

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