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Agricultural Biotechnology

Agricultural Biotechnology

Agricultural biotechnology is a field of science that aims to improve domestic plants or animals, make or modify bioproducts, or modify microorganisms for specific agricultural uses. Modern agricultural biotechnology may involve the use of genetic engineering technology to permanently alter the genetic make up of living organisms.

Materials for Agricultural Biotechnology

Animation

Guess What's Coming to Dinner?

Description: An interactive animation showing how genetic modifications are being made to common foods

Articles/Research

Biotechnology

Description: Information on agricultural biotechnology

Genetically Modified Food

Description: An introduction to issues raised by genetically modified foods

History of Agricultural Biotechnology: How Crop Development Has Evolved

Description: Information with illustrations and a timeline on the history of agricultural biotechnology

Is It Ethical to Genetically Modify Farm Animals for Agriculture?

Description: Genetic engineering involves altering an organisms genes to enhance certain characteristics. Read about advantages and disadvantages associated with genetically modifying animals for agriculture.

Licensing CRISPR for Agriculture - Policy Considerations

Description: Broad Chief Business Officer Issi Rosen outlines the ethical and safety concerns involved with the use of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology in agriculture. CRISPR is a genome editing technique that lets scientists edit genetic material, by removing, replacing, or adding to parts of the DNA sequence. The Broad Institute of MIT has recently awarded Monsanto a CRISPR licensing agreement.

Should We Grow GM Crops?

Description: Consider arguments for and against genetically modified foods through this interactive survey

Synthetic Biology Project

Description: The Project aims to foster informed public and policy discussions on synthetic biology – an emerging field that uses science and engineering to make or re-design living organisms, such as bacteria, so they can carry out specific functions. Synthetic biology involves making new genetic code which does not already exist in nature.

Interactive Tutorials

Applied Genetic Modifications

Description: An interactive tutorial for learning advanced laboratory techniques to create a transgenic plant

Bacterial ID Virtual Lab App

Description: Learn about the science and techniques used to identify different types of bacteria based on their DNA sequences. The techniques used in this lab are applicable in a wide variety of settings, including scientific research and forensic labs.

Engineer a Crop

Description: An online activity comparing traditional farming techniques to transgenic methods

Weed to Wonder

Description: A video and interactive Web site with information on how human ingenuity transformed a common Mexican weed into a modern food and fuel wonder

Labs & Experiments

Classroom Activities in Plant Biotechnology

Description: This program aims to introduce elementary and high school students to the basics of plant biotechnology. It includes several classroom experiments that can be modified to suit the ages of the students.

Evaluating Methods of Pest Control

Description: A laboratory experiment to prompt discussion of the economic importance of pest control

Investigating What Makes Fruit Go Brown

Description: A laboratory experiment to test hypotheses of why fruits brown and prompt discussion on commercial food processing

Trading Hormones Among Fishes - Gene Technology Lets Us Watch What Happens

Description: An advanced virtual laboratory experiment to determine if growth hormone from one species can activate growth in another.

Teacher Resources

Biotechnology: An Agricultural Dilemma (PDF 28.17 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Students develop an understanding of agricultural needs in developing nations, research the types of genetically modified crop plants, examine the impacts of genetically modified plants on the environment, analyze the benefits and risks of genetically modified crop plants, support and debate a view based on biological knowledge, and apply scientific information to resolve a societal issue.

Catch Up on Tomato Technology (505.5 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: This lesson is a tool to demonstrate how various technological advances have changed the tomato and the tomato industry over the years. The technology includes both selective breeding and genetic engineering.

Introduction to Genetically Modified Organisms (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Students take a pre-test to help the instructor guage pre-existing knowledge and attitudes about genetic modification. After a presentation on the basics of recombinant DNA technology, students read an article about genetically modified foods that presents both the benefits and concerns this use of recombinant DNA technology has brought up. Students then work in small groups reading articles that go more in depth about either a pro or con of GMOs. After each group briefly presents the arguments for or against GMOs from their article, students are asked to write an opinion paper for homework.

Is it Genetically Modified? (PDF 198.25 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: Students are introduced to and asked to think about the procedures used to detect GMO foods, namely PCR and gel electrophoresis. In small groups, student then get to test foods brought from home for the presence of GMO ingredients using the Bio-Rad GMO Investigator Kit. At every step of the way, students are asked to think about why each step is important. Finally, students must analyze and interpret their experimental results, write a comprehensive lab report, present their findings to their classmates.

Maintaining Plant Genebanks (PDF 44.43 KB, Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A lesson plan exploring the benefits and problems of maintaining plant genebanks globally. Students research the science behind and the need for plant genebanks, consider the rationale for gaining ownership over scientific information, formulate an opinion about the costs and uses of high tech scientific applications, and understand the implications of reliance on biotechnology.

What Changes Our Minds? Toxicants, Exposure, and the Environment (Lesson Plans/Lesson Activities)

Description: A series of lesson plans and laboratory experiments exploring the effects of environmental exposure to chemicals. You may need to register to view the plans, but the lesson plans and registration is free.