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Students will be able to 1) Explain what genetically modified foods are and how they are created. 2) Use appropriate vocabulary to describe and effectively discuss the benefits of, and potential risks of, genetically modified foods. 3) Identify foods that they consume or encounter that do or likely contain genetically modified organisms and those that do not. 4) Discuss critically some of the issues that surround the GMO debate to include: globalization, safety, labeling, and impact on family farms.
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|Students will be able to|
1) Explain what genetically modified foods are and how they are created.
2) Use appropriate vocabulary to describe and effectively discuss the benefits of, and potential risks of, genetically modified foods.
3) Identify foods that they consume or encounter that do or likely contain genetically modified organisms and those that do not.
4) Discuss critically some of the issues that surround the GMO debate to include: globalization, safety, labeling, and impact on family farms.
GMOs are genetically modified organisms. These organisms have, in some way, had their genome altered (the "genome" is the total of all the genes in an organism of a specific species). The creation of GMOs involves using recombinant technology to place genes from one organism into another of a different species to confer some trait. For example, Monsanto Company has placed a gene from a soil bacterium into the genome of a potato plant, giving the potato plant resistance to a common pest, the Colorado Potato Beetle. These potatoes are now commercially grown in the U.S. The pesticide that used to be sprayed on the potatoes to fight the beetle is no longer necessary. The U.S. is the primary producer of GMO foods in the world. GMOs are often referred to correctly as "transgenic organisms" and "genetically engineered organisms." In addition to plants, many types of bacteria and animals have all been genetically engineered. Bacteria are used to produce human protein, such as insulin, through the insertion of the human gene into their genome. Additionally, goats have been engineered to produce valuable human protein in their milk and pigs to produce hemoglobin in large quantities in their blood. For an excellent summary of GMOs and the pros and cons of this technology, visit the following Web site from the Department of Energy:
This lesson is designed to expose students to the various issues surrounding GMO foods and to help them understand the complexity of the issues surrounding the biotechnology movement. Students will read aloud from two NewsHour pieces, both of which involve a variety of perspectives surrounding the GMO issue. Additionally, students will try to identify GMO foods that they have consumed and discuss the "to label or not to label" debate. At home students will be surveying family and/or peers and attempting to identify GMOs they consume on a daily basis. The article entitled "Food Crisis in Zambia" will bring a more global understanding to the issue of GMOs and will get students thinking about biotechnology, globalization and ethics. Extension activities further explore the ethical issues surrounding GMOs, allow students to participate in government by petitioning their congressmen and congresswomen and give them an opportunity to look at biotech information from opposing interests. All of these activities are designed to be used individually, and accordingly can be used piecemeal and in any particular order.
Activity I: (20 Minutes - 10 minutes per piece) Students chosen by the instructor or student volunteers take on the roles of those individuals in the two Newsier pieces entitled "High Tech Food" and "Seeding the Future," Have the students sit in front of the class and go through the piece, acting as the interviewer and the interviewees. This could be given to the students a day or two prior to the presentation, giving them a chance to read over and highlight their parts and understand the context of their roles. This can be made more exciting for the students by acquiring a few items, such as a microphone, a lab coat, overalls etc., for the readers. As students are reading through the interview, have the students listening jot down words and phrases with which they are unfamiliar. These can be used as a discussion piece later. This activity and both of these articles do an excellent job of presenting to students the many perspectives on the GMO food debate. This activity could be used to introduce the topic or to kickoff a class discussion or a more formal debate. Here are the cast of characters for "High Tech Food" Announcer/Spokesman: Reads all non-specific text and part of Ray Suarez
Paul Solman: WGBH Business Correspondent (main speaking role)
Andrew Waber: Pioneer Hi-Bred Representative
Peg Armstrong-Gustafson: Pioneer Hi-Bred Representative
Sue Roberts: Nutrition Consultant
George Naylor: Farmer
Neil Hamilton: Agricultural Law Professor, Drake University
Robert Shapiro: Monsanto CEO
Dermont Hayes: Economist, Iowa State University Here are the cast of characters for "Seeding the Future." Announcer/Spokesman: Introduces the piece and reads abstract
Tom Bearden: Correspondent (main speaking role)
Tim Hume: Farmer
John Losey: Cornell University
Val Giddings: Biotechnology Industry Organization
Jane Rissler: Union of Concerned Scientists
Dan Peters: Farmer Activity II: Group Brainstorming and Reporting Out (15 - 20 minutes) Following the readings, students should work in groups of 2 or 3. Outfit each group with large sheets of construction or other paper and markers. This activity will act to assure that students all understand exactly what a GMO is and as well ask them to revisit the NewsHour pieces they just heard and pick out the salient arguments behind each perspective. Instructors could provide each group with a printed copy of the pieces. In groups of 2 or 3, students will complete 2 brief activities:
2. Have you consumed any GMO foods in the past week? If so, how many (times)?
3. Do you think the government should require genetically modified foods to be labeled as such?
Extension Activity 1: A week prior to the classroom discussion have students find articles online about transgenic plants and animals. There are literally hundreds out there. Having the students highlight words in the article they are unfamiliar with can help you assess the class' understanding. I encourage my students to find short articles that bring up ethical issues or that are intrinsically interesting, like articles about glowing bunny rabbits and goats that produce spider silk in their milk. Collect the articles, sort through them and pick a few that best lend themselves to an effective classroom discussion. Copy the selected articles and place them into folders. I use 13 folders, each with about 8 short articles. Place the folders around the room. Students can peruse the articles so that there is a common vocabulary and background for an effective classroom discussion. This discussion can be used not only to discuss the ethical implications of the new technology but also to work out any misunderstanding students might still have. Extension Activity 2: At the following Web site students will find form letters and petitions and easy ways to get their message to others about labeling genetically modified foods. You may find that some students want to take further action regarding GMOs and labeling. Extension Activity 3: This activity is designed to get the students thinking critically about companies and propaganda. The two sites below have very different viewpoints of GMO foods and both have very different interests in the success or failure of this new technology. In addition to working from these two sites, encourage students to find other sites that could serve as similar examples. Have students, working in pairs, visit the Web sites below and 1. summarize the attitude towards GMO foods presented by the company
2. discuss the economic and social impact GMO foods have/could have on the
company Extension Activity 4: The fourth section of the book "The Botany of Desire" is dedicated to the history of the potato plant, its impact on history and as much to the production of the NewLeaf potato plant, a GMO plant that has been modified to be resistant to the Colorado Potato Beetle. The author visits the Monsanto laboratories and explains how these plants are produced in a lab. He grows that plant himself and compares their progress in his garden to his unmodified plants and finally he visits farmers in Idaho being affected by the move to GMO potatoes. You could attempt to read the entire chapter to your students which would take a significant amount of time, or read only those sections dedicated to the new leafs. The section in which he visits the Monsanto labs provides a good picture of how biotech companies develop such GMOs.