[Editor's note: Heather Landry is a Ph.D. candidate in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program at Harvard University.]
Although there is little evidence that GMOs have impacted genetic diversity in today’s environment, scientists and ecologists are very aware of the potential influence that GMOs have on biodiversity. Therefore, researchers are investigating how to better prevent crossbreeding and spreading of GMOs, similar to the physical and biological containment strategies used for AquaBounty’s salmon. Some approaches for preventing hybridization of plants involve methods that make the second generation of seeds sterile or dependent on a chemical for fertility. Other approaches prevent the spread of genetically modified material by requiring that two GMO plants must be crossed in order for the offspring to contain the advantageous trait.
We have learned from evolution that organisms are capable of developing a large variety of advantageous traits through natural genetic mutations and hybridizations. By manipulating this system, scientists are still uncovering how genetically engineered modifications affect the natural environment.
Many of the concerns with genetic diversity in agriculture are not restricted to GMOs, as standard crop cultivation faces very similar issues.
Therefore, it is imperative that researchers continue to study the impact of GMOs and agricultural practices on genetic diversity and discover new ways to minimize their influence on biodiversity.
The GLP aggregated and excerpted this article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Challenging Evolution: How GMOs Can Influence Genetic Diversity