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Unexpected consequences of genetic selection in broilers and turkeys: problems and solutions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
JournalBritish Poultry Science
Volume55
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jan 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2014

Abstract

Abstract 1. Genetic theory leads to the expectation that unexpected consequences of genetic selection for production traits will inevitably occur and that these changes are likely to be undesirable. 2. Both artificial selection for production efficiency and "natural" selection for adaptation to the production environment result in selection sweeps that increase the frequencies of rare recessive alleles that have a negative effect on fitness. 3. Fitness is broadly defined as any trait that affects the ability to survive, reproduce and contribute to the next generation, such as musculoskeletal disease in growing broiler chickens and multiple ovulation in adult broiler parents. 4. Welfare concerns about the negative effects of genetic selection on bird welfare are sometimes exaggerated but are nevertheless real. Breeders have paid increasing attention to these traits over several decades and have demonstrated improvement in pedigree flocks. There is an urgent need to monitor changes in commercial flocks to ensure that genetic change is accompanied by improvements in that target population. 5. New technologies for trait measurement, whole genome selection and targeted genetic modification hold out the promise of efficient and rapid improvement of welfare traits in future breeding of broiler chickens and turkeys. The potential of targeted genetic modification for enhancing welfare traits is considerable but the goal of achieving public acceptability for the progeny of transgenic poultry will be politically challenging.

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