Nature has a great way of determining who is strongest. Over time, this evolves into plants and animals who are best adapted to their environment. When that environment changes, then natural selection begins again so that those who use the habitat can continue to evolve. Artificial selection operates in the same way, but instead of Mother Nature being in control, humans are the ones who are initiated the evolution process.
Is this something that we should be doing? Here are some of the key points to consider when looking at the pros and cons of artificial selection.
What Are the Pros of Artificial Selection?
1. It will allow needed traits to be produced quickly and effectively.
For many genetic traits, there is just a 25% chance of the offspring having the trait that is desired. Through the process of artificial selection, the desired trait can be recognized during the embryonic stages. This practice will then eliminate the offspring that doesn’t have the desired trait so that a desired outcome has a better chance of being successful.
2. It creates the potential for added profitability.
Farmers who engage in artificial selection can create crops that are bigger, more plentiful, or more resilient to local pests. When more of a crop can be grown to completion on a regular basis, then this allows for more profits to be achieved. In some ways, even cross-breeding plants can be a form of artificial selection because it creates a new breed or species that may not normally have existed.
3. In can enhance the quality of what is being created.
When artificial selection is used in the food chain, then it allows for the creation of foods that can grow faster and store longer. In animals, it can be used to create more muscle tissues for consumption later on. Horses can become faster. Chickens begin laying eggs sooner or laying more eggs. Even cats or dogs can be bred through artificial selection for better companionship. The choices are virtually endless.
4. It can be used in every industry.
There aren’t any plants or animals that won’t benefit from the artificial selection process. By picking the plants and animals that have the most beneficial traits, such as the most kernels or the longest antlers, we can develop life that is better suited to meet the needs of a changing world. The only question that is really left to ask is this: can these benefits be translated over to human life as well in an ethical, safe manner?
What Are the Cons of Artificial Selection?
1. There can be unanticipated consequences of encouraging a specific trait.
Let’s say there are carrots being created through artificial selection that are narrower, longer, and colored blue. By encouraging these traits, the plants can evolve. When this happens, however, there may also be an increased susceptibility to disease, soil conditions, or other factors that can make it difficult for those carrots to grow. For every action there tends to be an equal and opposite reaction.
2. It lessens the amount of variation that exists in a gene pool.
When the genetics of a population group are too similar, then the result will often be a higher risk of mutation. Although some mutations can be beneficial and even lead to additional artificial selection opportunities, most mutations are harmful. This means that eventually adjustments must be continually made or the species is going to die out.
3. The quality of life is often reduced through artificial selection.
Although this result isn’t seen right away, it can become problematic once the gene pool becomes too similar. When inbreeding or same-species pollination happens too frequently, then the offspring tends to have a lower than average lifespan. A variety of health problems may also begin to appear.
4. Choice is subjective to the person or group is performing the selective breeding.
What one person or group sees as being a beneficial trait may be very different from what others might want. This makes the artificial selection process very subjective. It also means that some may see an ethical issue with this process as it is seen as “playing god” or interfering with the natural processes of nature.
The pros and cons of artificial selection have been examined for nearly 2,000 years. It was first recommended as a possible way to improve the food chain and it has been discussed in some way, shape, or form ever since. It may not always create beneficial results, but over time and with enough consistent breeding for certain traits, a species can improve over time thanks to this practice.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.