New sources of genetic polymorphisms promise significant additions to the number of useful genetic markers in agricultural plants and animals, and prompt this review of potential applications of polymorphic genetic markers in plant and animal breeding. Two major areas of application can be distinguished. The first is based on the utilization of genetic markers to determine genetic relationships. These applications include varietal identification, protection of breeder's rights, and parentage determination. The second area of application is based on the use of genetic markers to identify and map loci affecting quantitative traits, and to monitor these loci during introgression or selection programs. A variety of breeding applications based on these possibilities can be envisaged for Selfers, particularly for those species having a relatively small genome size. These applications include: (i) screening genetic resources for useful quantitative trait alleles, and introgression of chromosome segments containing these alleles from resource strain to commercial variety; (ii) development of improved pure lines out of a cross between two existing commercial varieties; and (iii) development of crosses showing increased hybrid vigor. Breeding applications in segregating populations are more limited, particularly in species with a relatively large genome size. Potential applications, however, include: (i) preliminary selection of young males in dairy cattle on the basis of evaluated chromosomes of their proven sire; (ii) genetic analysis of resource strains characterized by high values for a particular quantitative trait, and introgression of chromosome segments carrying alleles contributing to the high values from resource strain to recipient strain.