Saturday, April 25, 2009

What is Genetic Erosion

Until the 1940s, the centers of origin of crop species and animals were considered limitless sources of genetic variability. After World War II, agriculture in developing countries suffered great changes. The expanded use of improved varieties resulted in the reduction of traditional varieties, a process called genetic erosion. The expansion of the agricultural frontiers also contributed to the risk of loss of the wild relatives of crop species.

According to a study carried out by the National Academy of Sciences in the United States, of approximately 3,000 possible plant species, only 20 to 30 constitute the basis of agriculture. For example, amaranth has high economic potential and has been recommended as a species that deserves more attention from plant breeders, with the objective of improving the plant to make it more valuable for commercial use. This requires the removal of undesirable traits and the improvement of other traits to allow for improved production.

The process of genetic erosion also occurs with many other species of flora, fauna, and microorganisms, and it is the first sign indicating possible species extinction. Environmental deterioration initially results in local extinction and later culminates with the global extinction of the species. For instance, well before species vanish, a small number of survivors could result in inbreeding of the population. Inbreeding results from intermating between related individuals that causes the generation of less fit individuals with a greater likelihood of genetic defects.

Biotechnology can help in the diagnosis of genetic erosion before any conventional techniques. This can be achieved by DNA analyses that quantify the remaining genetic diversity. However, as each organism has a different genome, these methods would have to be developed for each species. This technique has been used with success in the study of wolf species, fish, cattle, macaws, whales, and other animals. In many cases, the studies were used to justify the creation of new refuges where such species dwell.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Bio diversity

Related Posts by Categories