Warm up Discuss at your table: Have you eaten any GMO (genetically modified organisms) food today?
GMO Seeds To make genetically modified seeds, companies manipulate the gene sequence in a plant’s DNA so that it has special traits, such as the ability to tolerate a specific weed killer while the plants around it die.
Quiz In which country are the most GMO crops grown? A.China B.Brazil C.Argentina D.United States E.Canada
Quiz What percentage of food in U.S. supermarkets are estimated to contain one ingredient that is derived from GMO crops? A.50 B.60 C.70 D.80
Quiz What is the most popular GMO crop cultivated in the United States? A.Corn B.Soybeans C.Cotton D.Squash
GMO Seeds Genetically modified crop seeds have only been available since the mid-1990s. To make such seeds, companies manipulate the gene sequence in a plant’s DNA so that it has special traits, such as the ability to tolerate a specific weed killer while the plants around it die. Companies can then patent these genetically modified seeds, which gives them the legal right to control the use of any seed that contains their patented gene sequence. This situation has changed agricultural practices and spurred controversy.
Clip Watch the video clip “From Seed to the Supermarket.” Take notes on concerns about genetically modified seeds voiced by those in the film.
GM Products: Benefits and Controversies Benefits Crops – Enhanced taste and quality – Reduced maturation time – Increased nutrients, yields, and stress tolerance – Improved resistance to disease, pests, and herbicides – New products and growing techniques Environment – "Friendly" bioherbicides and bioinsecticides – Conservation of soil, water, and energy – Bioprocessing for forestry products – Better natural waste management – More efficient processing Society – Increased food security for growing populations Controversies Safety – Potential human health impacts, including allergens, transfer of antibiotic resistance markers, unknown effects – Potential environmental impacts, including: unintended transfer of transgenes through cross- pollination, unknown effects on other organisms (e.g., soil microbes), and loss of flora and fauna biodiversity Access and Intellectual Property – Domination of world food production by a few companies – Increasing dependence on industrialized nations by developing countries – Biopiracy, or foreign exploitation of natural resources Ethics – Violation of natural organisms' intrinsic values – Tampering with nature by mixing genes among species – Objections to consuming animal genes in plants and vice versa Labeling – Not mandatory in some countries (e.g., United States) – Mixing GM crops with non-GM products confounds labeling attempts Society – New advances may be skewed to interests of rich countries U.S. Department of Energy Genome Programs http://genomics.energy.gov
GM Products: Benefits and Controversies Let’s discuss: When companies have invested resources in developing genetic material, should they have the right to patent it? Why or why not? How might keeping seeds in the public domain affect innovation in biotechnology? What would happen if genetically modified seeds fail or become vulnerable to certain pests or crop diseases? What is the relationship between biodiversity and food security?
Assessment Review the list of benefits and controversies of genetically modified seeds and select the three most important factors related to their use. Explain the significance of these factors in a persuasive, five paragraph essay.