Science, Benefits, Risk & Public Sentiment
In this lesson, students will: (1) Explore enhancements that can be made to animals using biotechnology, (2) consider advantages of producing GM animals, (3) research possible concerns associated with GM animals, and (4) analyze public opinion data about the use of biotech animals.
Explain to students that genetically modified animals (also known as “GM” or “biotech” animals) are developed by to taking genetic material from one organism and inserting it into the genetic code of another. Animals have been modified to make them grow faster, produce vaccines, be more ecologically friendly, and help in biomedical research. In the case of GloFish® fluorescent fish, the first commercially available biotech animal, the fluorescence gene from a sea coral was injected into zebrafish eggs. These genes become part of the genetic makeup of the zebrafish, allowing the fluorescent color to be transmitted to all future generations. Originally, fluorescent zebrafish were produced to help find pollutants in water. The idea was that non-fluorescing fish would indicate the water was safe, whereas a fluorescing fish would indicate danger (i.e., water pollution). To show your students a diagram illustrating the procedure of producing genetically modified GloFish, please see the following web page:
1. What types of traits are being modified in animals?
2. How comfortable are you with the genetic modification of animals?
3. In terms of the end result, are there any material differences between changing animals with modern biotechnology compared to changing animals over time through selective breeding? Are changes made through biotechnology more or less precise?
4. What steps are taken to ensure that biotech animals are ecologically safe?
5. Why is the genetic modification of animals controversial?
6. Do you expect that this technology will be commonplace in the future?
7. Are the arguments against GM animals scientific or ideological?
8. What are good strategies for separating fact from fiction in the debate?