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Mutagenesis (or mutation, both words originating in the latin word mutare, to change) is the change of the genetic material (DNA or RNA) of an organism. This can be a single nucleotide being exchanged, removed, or added, ranging up to the change, deletion or addition of a whole chromosome.

Common causes for mutation are radiation, chemicals, or copying error when a cell is duplicating its genetic material before cell division.

As mutations occur (almost) randomly, most of them are irrelevant or harmful for the cell that undergoes mutation, just like the random exchange of a letter in this article is more likely to do damage than to improve it. But, once in a while, the change will improve the whole, which is the driving force of evolution.