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The Debate on Genetically Modified Foods: Middle School Lesson

written by: Atlanta Page • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 7/12/2012

Are genetically modified foods a safe way to feed a lot of people? Or are they toxic to our health? This lesson will broaden the minds of your students on the good and bad associated with modified foods. Let's examine this lesson.

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    The Debate on Genetically Modified Foods

    There is debate whether genetically modified foods are good to ingest or not. Students will learn facts from both sides of the argument, for and against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), because to cover only one side of the debate is bias. Let's cover a list of facts to teach the students and have the students follow-up by researching and writing their own report on which side of the debate they agree with.

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    GMOs Objectives to teach:

    • What modified foods are
    • Where modified foods come from
    • Views in favor of using modified food versus views against using modified foods

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    GMO Facts

    This is a deep subject and you can delve as deeply as you want to into it. Here are some teaching points to include in the lesson plan on modified foods.

    1. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. GMOs are sometimes abbreviated as GM.
    2. GMOs were first introduced in the mid1990s.
    3. They are the insertion or deletion of a gene organism from one species into another; this is also called transgenic.
    4. Unlike cisgenesis, which occurs when genes are artificially transferred between two species that could have bred naturally, GMOs are transgenic, meaning they have genes inserted that are from a totally different species. For instance, B.t., or Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural bacterium, is injected into corn making a GMO corn with pesticide in its genes now. This never would or could have occurred on its own.
    5. The company Monsanto is responsible for engineering GMOs.
    6. GMOs are considered beneficial by those who make them. They say the plants are stronger, taste better, resist bugs and disease better.
    7. Those on the organic (heirloom seeds) front or open pollination front, feel differently.
    8. GMOs can and do adversely affect open pollinated crops nearby.
    9. GMOs are patentable. Thus, many farmers have been sued because the GMOs cross-pollinated, and now the organic farmer's seeds have genetic markers in them. In the minds of organic eaters and the organic farmers, the crops are ruined. The GMO company sees it as an opportunity and wants their patented gene back. Thus, these two are at cross roads with each other.
    10. The GMO patent holders say that these seeds and plants are perfectly healthy to humans and animals.
    11. GMOs are not natural occurrences of nature. They are engineered by man, and in ways that nature could never do by accident because they are cross-species of the genes.
    12. Research shows many of the GMOs are linked to organ damage, obesity, diabetes and more.
    13. GMOs show up in political scenes all over the world.
    14. Many country's citizens have rioted over and ruined the GMO crops to get rid of them entirely.
    15. The U.S. does not have to tell its citizens if the food they eat has GMOs or not. The labeling of GMOs is catching on around the world as the thing to do.
    16. GMO makers of seeds require you to buy from the makers each year, unlike organic seeds which can be saved by the farmer.
    17. GMOs were created with the intention of making them able to withstand high doses of weed killers such as Roundup in the beginning, and have branched out from there.
    18. Although the FDA has backed the GMO companies for years, it is also important to note that Monsanto is the maker of Roundup and looks to benefit from crops that can withstand high doses of this weed killer.
    19. Many are angry because of mega weeds, which are created by GMOs.
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    Participation and Assessment

    Participation after the teaching:

    • Have students write a report based on their views of this argument.
    • Have students write a short essay, adding facts they have researched.

    To assess the students:

    • Focus on the some of the chemical process words above and give the test as a review.
    • You can either give an oral test or a written one on what is a modified food, where modified foods came from and arguments for and against modified foods.

    These are some ideas for assessing your students after you teach this in-depth lesson plan on modified foods. You can give this lesson as a "hitting the high points" lesson that inspires your students to go further and thus write and report. Have fun it! Make your lesson plan on modified foods a memorable one.

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    Resources:

    NYU Grad School of Arts and Science: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/jaeger/genetically_modified_foods.htm

    Consumer Acceptance of Genetically Modified Foods: A Phone Survey- http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/21999/1/sp03ka03.pdf

    IFOAM: http://www.ifoam.org/growing_organic/1_arguments_for_oa/environmental_benefits/ge_affecting_oa.html

    International Journal of Biological Sciences: http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm#headingA11

    Friends of the Earth International: http://www.foeeurope.org/GMOs/Who_Benefits/Ex_Summary_Feb08.pdf

    News: http://www.decanter.com/news/wine-news/496025/militants-destroy-gmo-research-vines

    Monsanto: http://www.monsanto.com/Pages/default.aspx

    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:xs3RPNxmfPwJ:cti.itc.virginia.edu/~meg3c/200R/Private/E-0220_MONSANTO-ABC-2%252379853.doc+monsanto+since+1990&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESg3RWBJeoPvfVTPUTpjWBZZJcasrdIioQWEcEBS_wyKXnbrV2PhGsSTOC3k0Os0ccnGJE7MkF3-StL9yGDcMx7R2Mdm-skBcc60Wi4gHlCbhw-CYKZt2knLukHxKfGuZFLEQbE6&sig=AHIEtbRtK2yIZbQXJOPDe9pN2s0nKia5ug

    Trends in Biotechnology: http://www.cell.com/trends/biotechnology/abstract/S0167-7799%2807%2900079-0

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons