Socioeconomics and Agricultural Biotechnology
Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environment
Valerie Askren, Ric Bessin and Lori Garkovich
University of Kentucky
Presented at the
National Science Teachers Association Annual Convention
Bridges to New Frontiers - Professional Development
Valerie Askren Ric Bessin Lori Garkovich
Department of Agriculture Department of Entomology Department of Community Economics Economic Development
406 Barnhart Building S-225 Agric. Science North 500 Garrigus Building
University of Kentucky University of Kentucky University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40545-0276 Lexington, KY 40545-0091 Lexington, KY 40545-0215
(859) 257-7272 ext 259 (859) 257-7456 (859) 257-7581
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
Biotechnology, Research and Education Initiative (BREI)
BREI is a team of multi-disciplinary research, extension, and teaching professionals from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. Please visit our web site at www.ca.uky.edu/brei/
The series is designed to help people understand and assess the risks and benefits of agricultural biotechnology. All of these can be downloaded free of charge at www.ca.uky.edu/brei/breipubs.html
1. Biotechnology in Our Food System: Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
2. Agricultural Biotechnology and the Environment
3. Food Biotechnology
3a. Food Biotechnology Teaching Guide
4. Molecular Farming: Using Biotechnology in Agriculture for the Sustainable Production of New Materials
5. Taco Bell Home Originals Taco Shells Recall
Case Studies (contact firstname.lastname@example.org for copies)
Doug the Farmer
Dhruva the destitute
Marine Mammal Protection and Management
Farm Animals: Som e Specific Management Cases
Egg machines and Krista the Scientist
Pigs with Human Genes
SuperSpud: World Hunger Case Study
Native American Culture and Whaling
Bangladesh Farm Decision project
Open-Ended questions (Think-write-pair-share) / Writing Exercises
If you could clone something or someone, what would it be? What would be the consequences of doing so?
Divide into pairs. Agree to share one genetic trait with another student. What trait would you want and why? How would you expect your life to change?
Is it acceptable to clone viruses and bacteria for use in medicine? Is it acceptable to clone plants? Animals? People?
What would be the consequences of removing biotech from both the food and the industrial agricultural system?
Should scientists be influenced by the possible socioeconomic impacts of their research?
Projects and Demonstrations
Develop a survey gauging consumer attitudes towards genetically modified foods. This could be done in the classroom or school, with parents/siblings, or at a public location (such as a grocery store). Tabulate and graph the results. Compare the results to other surveys.
Conduct a taste test comparing genetically modified soybeans and conventionally bred soybeans. Tabulate and graph the results.
Collect data documenting the number of acres grown and amount harvested of corn, cotton or soybeans in a given geographic area. Estimate how much is conventionally bred versus genetically modified. Assume, a new genetically modified seed was developed that increased corn yields by ten percent (and all other things remained the same). Calculate how the total acreage farmed would change if all farmers adopted this new seed (to keep total production of this crop constant). How would this affect the number of farmers required to grow this crop? Speculate what would happen to both crop and food prices. Would farm income change?
Can scientists ever prove that biotech crops are safe? Many people who object to biotech crops argue that the crops should not be allowed to grow in the environment until science proves that they are safe. Others who support biotech crops argue that science has proven that they are indeed safe. As the instructor, hold a rock three to four feet above the floor. Ask the students what will happen if you let go of the rock. Hopefully, they will say that the rock will drop to the floor! Then, ask the students to prove that the rock will fall to the floor before you let go.
What is a hazard? Ask your students what substances or activities do not represent a hazard. A student or two may state that drinking water does not represent a hazard because water is not toxic. What about brushing your teeth? But hazard alone is not risk. Remember, risk is a function of both hazard and exposure.
Demonstration of risk as a function of hazard and exposure: Fill a salt shaker with about 3 tablespoons of table salt and place the lid on it. Relate to the students that three tablespoons of salt when ingested is a sufficient dose to kill a child under about 40 pounds, and either kill an adult or make him/her very ill. Now ask the students what is the probability that they will be exposed to the salt as long as it remains in the shaker.
Field trip to local biotech firm: Every state has firms that specialize in biotechnology – either for medical, pharmaceutical, industrial or agricultural applications. Research the industry first. Then do a site visit. Are there environmental risks ? How are they managed?
How do we manage risks? Ask each student to list several natural and man-made risks. Then have each student identify several ways in which we manage those risks. Example: Solar radiation causing skin cancer. Managed by using sun block, wearing hats and other clothing, limiting time of exposure outdoors. Example: Injuries caused by car accidents. Managed by having drivers take tests to get licenses, wearing seat belts, installing airbags.
Framing the Issue: Have students research a biotechnology issue. Using the internet, collect articles that frame the same “advancement” in different lights. Assess scientific accuracy of claims. Possible Issues: Golden Rice, Bt crops and the Monarch butterfly, Terminator gene technology.
The Bioethical Challenge: Identify the possible intrinsic and the extrinsic objections related to: previous classroom experiments; recent scientific breakthroughs, as reported in the popular press and science magazines; historical scientific advancements.
The Business of Science Challenge: Questions for discussion: Should private companies be permitted to use teminator gene technology? Should farmers in developing countries pay lower price premiums for genetically-modified seed? Should farmers be held liable for genetic pollution?
The Policy Issues: A public hearing before Congress on a proposal to limit public funding of research on agricultural biotechnology and to prohibit field testing of biotechnology products. Students assume the following roles: Congressional representatives; Opponents (university and commercial firms engaged in ag biotech research); Proponents (scientists, consumers, and environmental and health interest groups); The press. Students research the arguments that would be presented by those in their role and prepare a summary of these positions. Students develop two questions that might be asked by someone in their role as to why this proposal should or should not be enacted. Conduct the public hearing. Students evaluate the arguments. Presented and make a recommendation to Congress in a summary white paper.
Case Study: Food Aid to Africa. You are an advisor to a leader of a developing nation experiencing famine. The U.S. has donated surplus corn to your country, but it is genetically modified corn. "Green" groups are warning you that the corn is dangerous to human health. Others fear that farmers might plant some of these seeds, cross‑pollinating with native corn, endangering important export markets and revenue. But, if you don't accept the surplus corn, many people in your country will die from the famine. What do you recommend and why?
Classroom debate: Resolved that Congress should adopt legislation mandating the labeling of all consumer products that contain any trace amount of genetically modified components.
The Challenge of Consumer Choice: A student survey gauging consumer attitudes towards genetically modified foods. Students develop and administer their own survey (5‑7 questions). Students compile the answers and calculate percent distributions, mean, median, and mode. Students compare their answers to those in other surveys and discuss the ways in which who was asked questions and how a question was asked. Some students illustrate the responses using two different types of graphics. Others prepare a written report on the results. See www.pollingreport.com, www.nal.usda.gov/fnic, or www.nationalcenter.org for examples.
Title: Harvest of Fear
Year Produced: 2001
Length: 2 hours
Description: In "Harvest of Fear," FRONTLINE and NOVA explore the intensifying debate over genetically‑modified (gm) food crops. Interviewing scientists, farmers, biotech and food industry representatives, government regulators, and critics of biotechnology, this two‑hour report presents both sides of the debate, exploring the risks and benefits, the hopes and fears, of this new technology.
Title: Cloning: How and Why
Year Produced: 1998
Length: 31 minutes
Distributor: Hawkhill Associates
Description: Will cloning be the most revolutionary of the new biotechnologies in the 21st century? This new 1998 release takes students to Scotland (where Dolly made history as the first cloned mammal) and inside Neal First's laboratory at the University of Wisconsin where experts predict the first cloned cow will be born. Students will learn some of the details of just how cloning is done and they will be challenged to consider the implications of what this revolutionary technology might mean tomorrow.
Year Produced: 1995
Length: 28 minutes
Distributor: National Geographic Society
Description: Biotechnology ranks among the most fascinating and controversial of applied sciences. Using biotechnology, genes ‑ the very codes of life ‑ can be moved, changed, turned off, or even taken out of cells. While farmers have long engaged in a rudimentary and indirect sort of genetic manipulation ‑ selectively breeding their livestock and crops ‑ what makes biotechnology so profoundly different is that it allows for the direct manipulation and movement of single genes across species barriers that separates different kinds of living organisms...This video lays the groundwork for informed discussion on the controversial topics of biotechnology, with basic information on the biology of plants and animals and the science of genetics. (Comes with Teacher's Guide)
Title: Pick of the Crop
Year Produced: 1998
Length: 25 minutes
Distributor: Lucerne Media
Description: Can biotechnology produce foods that immunize us against disease? We examine the potential of genetic engineering in crops and livestock. Research is underway that could provide Third World countries with immunity against diseases such as cholera within the next decade.
Title: BREI on KET
Year Produced: 2000
Length: 50 minutes
Distributor: Kentucky Educational Television
Description: Interview with Dr. Glenn Collins, professor and nationally recognized researcher of plant cellular genetics, Department of Agronomy, College of Agriculture, University of Kentucky. Includes call‑in question and answer regarding biotechnology in agriculture.
Title: A Short Course on Biotechnology
Year Produced: 1999
Length: about 30 minutes
Distributor: Council for Biotechnology Information
Description: Excellent short course that can be used with a personal computer or using a video projector with your computer for classroom use. Can be presented with or without narration; includes printable script. Pentium 200 or better processor recommended; Microsoft Windows 95 or higher.
Title: Biotechnology in the Feed Industry
Format: Book and/or CD‑ROM
Year Produced: 2000
Length: Time: 515 pages
Distributor: Nottingham University Press. Edited by T.P. Lyons and K.A. Jacques
Description: Proceedings of Alltech's 16th Annual Symposium. CD‑rom also includes 10th‑15th Symposia 1994‑1999.
Educational Curriculum - Resource Web Sites
Educators nationwide are always searching for resources, materials, and training that can help them bring biotechnology into their classrooms. These sites point educators to some of the most useful and scientifically accurate biotechnology educational sites on the Web.
Of Apples and Animals
is a program from the Ohio State University for third to fifth graders. This online resource includes a guide on how to use the program and 4 units to show young students how biotechnology is possible and to illustrate some of its applications. Each unit has a materials list, activity guides and questions for discussion. http://ohioline.osu.edu/oaa/index.html
Cut the Fat ‑ Keep the Flavor
is an online resource unit from the Iowa State University for grades 6 to 12. It is a collection of materials educators can use to design their own programs about saturated fat in foods. Part of the resource is devoted to how biotechnology was used to produce a healthier soybean oil. This resource includes a good background section for educators with a brief history of food biotechnology, information on federal regulations and labeling and guidance on leading discussions on the issues surrounding biotechnology.
A University of Nebraska‑Lincoln site on biotechnology and food safety that has an Education Center with lesson plans, curricula, and interactive instructional modules; a database of risk assessment information on biotech crops; and product‑specific background information on a variety of crops.
Oklahoma State University
Resource page for integrating bioethics discussions into the science classroom.
Iowa State University's Extension‑Science, Engineering, and Technology (E‑SET)
includes biotechnology and basic science activities for youth, resources for educators, on‑line activities that teach both science and computer research skills, and provides tips for incorporating science education into classrooms or home‑school settings.
Council for Biotechnology Information
is funded by the biotechnology industry. It offers a special web section for teachers and students, including an 18‑page activity book incorporating short lessons, word puzzles, games and quizzes to help children learn more about biotechnology (targeted to third and fourth graders). They also have an information kit that contains a timeline of key biotechnology developments and short profiles of some of the plant biotech pioneers, as well as plant biotech facts and figures and frequently asked questions.
Educating About Agriculture
is an effort of American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. The site includes educational activities, resource materials, “Teachers Toolbox”, books and videos.
University of Wisconsin‑Madison
SEE Biotech, in association with the Outreach Program at UW Biotechnology Center, has developed a number of three‑ by four‑foot full‑color posters on bioscience topics. You can use these posters to illustrate how science approaches research problems. The posters are available here as poster‑sized and handout‑sized ".jpg" (bitmapped image files) and ".ai" (Adobe Illustrator vector graphics files).
A collection of materials to assist teachers with introducing agriculture into the classroom, including AgAware (learning through agriculture ‑ a series of modules that integrate key learning areas delivering core learning outcomes); Animal Welfare and Ethics; Biotechnology; and Global Trends.
Biotechnology in the Agriscience Curriculum
The purpose of this web site is to assist secondary agriscience teachers with the incorporation of agricultural biotechnology into their curriculum. The general outline follows the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) Chapter 119, Agricultural Science and Technology Education. Where possible, links to web sites providing examples and additional information are given.
Agricultural Biotechnology in the Science Curriculum
The purpose of this web site is to assist secondary science teachers with the incorporation of agricultural biotechnology into their curriculum. The general outline follows the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) Chapter 112, Science and Technology Education. Where possible, links to web sites providing examples and additional information are given.