Students learn the various definitions of genetic modification and the regulatory groups that oversee the approval of genetically modified organisms.
Complete the e-learning course What do you know about GMOs.
Students apply their knowledge by completing a simulation that models genetic modification.
Genetic modification is a topic that has been misunderstood by the public, although there have been many studies completed about the safety of genetic engineering. Even the terms are confusing! GMOs, or genetically modified organisms are living things that have had the DNA from another living thing added to its genome. There are 10 genetically modified crops that are currently in the marketplace today (alfalfa; canola; corn, both field and sweet; cotton; papayas; potatoes; soybeans; summer squash; sugar beets; and coming soon-apples). There have been many more stories about the attempts to bring other genetically modified organisms to consumers that are have met with resistance or regulatory difficulties along the way (Aqua Bounty™ salmon, frost-resistant strawberries, Flavr Savr™ tomatoes).
Even more confusing is the actual definition of genetic modification. Genetic modification in its earliest form began when hunter gatherers turned into farmers. The best plants that had the largest yield were taken, planted, then crossed with each other to produce some of the familiar crops we have today. Teosinte => corn is a prime example of something we have been doing for thousands of years. Today, scientists have access to the genomes of several plant species and are finding genes that control many of the traits that are desirable in commodity crops: drought-resistance, insect resistance, fast-growth, etc. Genetic techniques are being used in combination with more traditional methods of plant breeding to increase yield and decrease water use at the same time.