Genetic pollution is a controversial term for uncontrolled gene flow into wild populations. It is defined as “the dispersal of contaminated altered genes from genetically engineered organisms to natural organisms, esp. by cross-pollination”, but has come to be used in some broader ways. It is related to the population genetics concept of gene flow, and genetic rescue, which is genetic material intentionally introduced to increase the fitness of a population. It is called genetic pollution when it negatively impacts on the fitness of a population, such as through outbreeding depression and the introduction of unwanted phenotypes which can lead to extinction.
Conservation biologists and conservationists have used the term to describe gene flow from domestic, feral, and non-native species into wild indigenous species, which they consider undesirable. They promote awareness of the effects of introduced invasive species that may "hybridize with native species, causing genetic pollution". In the fields of agriculture, agroforestry and animal husbandry, genetic pollution is used to describe gene flows between genetically engineered species and wild relatives. The use of the word “pollution” is meant to convey the idea that mixing genetic information is bad for the environment, but because the mixing of genetic information can lead to a variety of outcomes, “pollution” may not always be the most accurate descriptor.