Genetic Engineering: What are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?
Note: Students will need to have background knowledge of DNA structure and function and basic understanding of classical genetics. Students will follow the outline found on the next page.
I. What are Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s)?
GMO’s are organisms that have had their DNA changed in a laboratory.
II. How does this work?
A. Started with bacteria. Bacteria have simple DNA that is easy to change.
B. Steps of process:
1. Find the gene that you want to insert into the bacterial DNA. Cut that gene out using a restriction enzyme (like molecular scissors).
2. Cut open the bacterial DNA plasmid (circular DNA) with the same restriction enzyme.
3. Insert the gene you want into the bacterial DNA and close up the loop using a ligase enzyme (like molecular glue).
4. When the bacteria reproduces, all the offspring will have a copy of that gene and hence will be genetically modified or changed!
C. Common Uses:
1. Making copies of genes for useful human compounds that are usually produced naturally, such as insulin and human growth hormone. Some people have disorders where they cannot produce these substances naturally.
2. Modifying food that we eat. For example, fruit that stays riper longer. Also, inserting genes for disease resistance or genes that kill insects that eat the crops. This could allow for more food being made and could feed more people.
A. Many foods that we eat now come from genetically modified organisms. There has been little to no testing on possible side effects of this process.
B. Companies in the United States are not required to put labels on food products containing GMO’s so there is no way of knowing if the food you eat contains them or not.
IV. Student project. Choose one of the following to complete to show you understand what GMO’s are all about. Be sure to include websites and other resources used in your presentation of the project.
A. Write an editorial article for a newspaper, either: 1) discussing the advantages of GMO’s and why you agree with using them, or 2) discussing the disadvantages, and why you think they should be banned in this country.
B. Invent a food product that could be created to somehow benefit humans that involves genetically modifying at least one organism. Create an advertisement either 1) on a poster or 2) using a video camera. Explain how this product will be created using genetic engineering practices and give detailed reasons why people should buy your product.