Review

Humans as the World's Greatest Evolutionary Force

Science  07 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5536, pp. 1786-1790
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5536.1786

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Abstract

In addition to altering global ecology, technology and human population growth also affect evolutionary trajectories, dramatically accelerating evolutionary change in other species, especially in commercially important, pest, and disease organisms. Such changes are apparent in antibiotic and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) resistance to drugs, plant and insect resistance to pesticides, rapid changes in invasive species, life-history change in commercial fisheries, and pest adaptation to biological engineering products. This accelerated evolution costs at least $33 billion to $50 billion a year in the United States. Slowing and controlling arms races in disease and pest management have been successful in diverse ecological and economic systems, illustrating how applied evolutionary principles can help reduce the impact of humankind on evolution.

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