To deal with the confusion in the literature, we propose to refresh the memory of those objecting to “junk DNA” by repeating a 15-year old terminological distinction made by Brenner (1998), who astutely differentiated between “junk DNA,” one the one hand, and “garbage DNA,” on the other: “Some years ago I noticed that there are two kinds of rubbish in the world and that most languages have different words to distinguish them. There is the rubbish we keep, which is junk, and the rubbish we throw away, which is garbage. The excess DNA in our genomes is junk, and it is there because it is harmless, as well as being useless, and because the molecular processes generating extra DNA outpace those getting rid of it. Were the extra DNA to become disadvantageous, it would become subject to selection, just as junk that takes up too much space, or is beginning to smell, is instantly converted to garbage … ”.

AuthorJan Skotheim