Genetically modified crops have been widely adopted by American farmers. In spite of their use in the United States, the European Union (EU) imposed a 6-year freeze (1998-2004) on growing and importing transgenic crops.

In 2002, transgenic food aid to African nations was rejected by the recipient governments. The EU's stand on agricultural biotechnology no doubt contributed to this decision.

Lori Unruh Snyder, Department of Agronomy, Purdue University, along with others, shares how to teach using this discussion-based scenario in the 2008 Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education.

According to Snyder, "First we provide an unbiased 'background' lecture outlining the issues. Students see how this incident shows conflict between those affected and those who write public policy. We present issues from all sides of the debate and encourage both small group and entire class discussion."

The exercise strengthened student critical thinking skills and helped students understand how people perceive biotechnology around the world. Students also evaluated how regional opinions can impact the rest of the world, and debated the pros and cons of biotechnology as viewed by the United States, Europe, Africa, and the World Trade Organization.

Teaching critical thinking can be an effective way to enhance students' abilities in specific content areas.

"This is important in disciplines where the subject matter is difficult, fraught with controversy, or raises complex sociological, environmental, and political issues," says Snyder.

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The full article is available for 30 days from the date of this summary as free access. After 30 days it will be available at the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education website, jnrlse. jnrlse/issues/ (Click on 2008, Volume 37, "View Article List," scroll down to article abstract).

Today's educators are looking to the Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education, jnrlse for the latest teaching techniques in the life sciences, natural resources, and agriculture. The journal is continuously updated online during the year and one hard copy is published in December by the American Society of Agronomy.

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA) agronomy, is a scientific society helping its 8,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services.

Source:
Sara Uttech
American Society of Agronomy

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