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        Bioengineered Foods?

        Students compare the processes of selective breeding and transgenic manipulation of plants. They consider the pros and cons of growing genetically modified crops.

        Lesson Summary


        In this lesson, students compare the processes of selective breeding and transgenic manipulation of plants. They consider the pros and cons of growing genetically modified crops. Then they explore the possible future consequences of genetically modified organisms. Finally, they analyze public opinion data about the use of genetically modified foods. As an optional activity, students explore genetics-inspired art and create their own artistic expressions about genetically modified foods.


        • Compare the processes of selective breeding and transgenic manipulation of plants
        • Discuss the arguments for and against genetic modification of foods
        • Describe the possible future impact of genetically modified foods
        • Analyze public opinion about the use and safety of genetically modified foods

        Suggested Time

        • Four to five class periods.

        Multimedia Resources

        Use these resources to create a simple assessment or video-based assignment with the Lesson Builder tool on PBS LearningMedia.


        Before the Lesson

        The Lesson

        Part I

        1. Show the Classical vs. Transgenic Breeding video. Then discuss examples of plants that have been traditionally bred for certain characteristics (e.g., firmer or sweeter tomatoes, wilt-resistant cucumbers, etc.). If time allows, have teams look at seed catalogs to identify two food plants and the specific different characteristics for which they have been bred. Then show the Bt Corn video so students can compare how plants are being genetically modified by new technologies. In pairs, have students discuss whether or not they think corn should be genetically modified and why.

        2. Have students do the Engineer a Crop: Transgenic Manipulation Web activities, including both "Selective Breeding" and "Transgenic Manipulation." (Note: In order to go from one activity to the other, students must click on the "Engineer a Crop" title at the bottom of the page.) Then, as a class, discuss the similarities and differences between selective breeding and transgenic manipulation.

        3. Ask students to examine the Should We Grow GM Crops? Web activity. Discuss how they voted and which arguments most influenced their decision.

        4. Next, have students explore the Guess What's Coming to Dinner? Web activity. Ask students to choose one of the bioengineered products or organisms described in the site (except the transgenic fish) and write a futuristic story about its introduction, uses, and positive and negative impacts on society. Stories can be shared with the class and/or displayed for others to read.

        Part II

        5. Show the Super Salmon video. Ask:

        • What allows transgenic salmon to grow in winter?
        • What are some possible consequences if transgenic salmon escape from their pens into the ocean population?
        • How might transgenic salmon affect the evolution of other salmon populations?
        • Do you think the FDA should give Aquabounty permission to grow and sell transgenic salmon? Why or why not?

        6. Have students review the Viewpoints: Harvest of Fear document. Ask them to describe each of the viewpoints introduced. Discuss the following:

        • What concerns do you have about the issues raised?
        • How can all these experts be right?

        7. Introduce the discussion section of the Harvest of Fear Web site, which includes viewers' comments on the entire program. Tell students you have divided up the section so that each team can analyze a portion of this public opinion data. Have each team identify in their batch of comments the arguments for and against genetic modification of food. Then have them list the pros and cons in separate columns on a sheet of paper. Next, have each team report to the class the number of contributors who are for and against GM foods. Finally, record the results in a class chart on the board. When finished, discuss the following:

        • What are the results?
        • How have viewers' comments influenced students' opinions?
        • How reliable is this method of sampling public opinion?
        • What are some ways in which more random data might be collected?

        8. Optional: Have students review the Genetic Art document. Then ask them to either make a collage or express in some other medium (painting, photograph, cartoon, etc.) their response to what they have learned about the genetic engineering of foods.


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