Just What are you Eating?

By: Kirstin Bittel and Rachel Hughes

Time: 1 class period
Preparation Time:   10-15 minutes photocopying handouts
Materials: Overhead 1 – GMF controversy in the news
Overhead 2 – Graph of major US crops and proportions of which are GMF
Overhead 3 – Zimbabwe headline
Handout 1- Major crops of the US including corn, cotton, soy and canola

During this lesson students are introduced to Genetically Modified Foods (GMF). Hooked by newspaper headlines and the presence of GMFs in their last meal, students review scientists’ opinions from Science Magazine using a Think-Pair-Share approach. This lesson is the introductory piece for a quarter long unit that uses GMF and Pesticides as the context for exploring genetics, basic plant biology and photosynthesis. The goal is to prompt students to ask just what are they eating and what is the biology behind the production of their food?

Purpose – Engagement of students in the topic of genetics and plant biology (specifically photosynthesis) through genetically modified foods and pesticide use later in the semester.

Students will be able to:-
1. Articulate the pros and cons of GMF including references to the scale of controversy world wide.
2. Identify where they might find GMFs in their diets.
3. State what the acronym GMF stands for

National Science Education Standards
Content Area C – The Interdependence of Organisms
Human beings live within the world’s ecosystems. Increasingly, humans modify ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology and consumption

Teacher Background

Related Websites




1. As students enter the classroom, overhead 1 is already up, displaying headlines relating to GMF. The sensationalist approach to headlines avails itself to prompting student questions. Media created terms such as ‘Frankenfoods’ have a negative connotation, but also offer a great starting point for asking students what they think ‘Frankenfoods/ GMFs’ are. Elicit from your students their opinions on GMFs. Ask how many of them are eating ‘Frankenfoods.’

2. Ask the class: ‘What did you eat for dinner last night?’ As students recall their dinners, write 4 or 5 of these as examples on the board. Using overhead 2, (main crops used in US proportions of each that are GM) ask students to identify which students’ dinners may have included GMFs. Be sure to pick out dinners that have a high likelihood of containing GMF, such as meals that include corn, tomatoes, soy, canola or potatoes. Ask students why the agriculture community might want to use genetically modified plants. All answers are reasonable at this point. Let the students know that over this quarter they will be finding out more about what GMFs are used for.

3. Should they be worried? Tally class opinion on GMFs

4. Think-Pair- Share
Divide the class into 8 groups. Give each group 4 copies of different opinion pieces. Students should read the piece to themselves. After reading it students return to their group and share one statement that stood out to them and tells the reader a pro or a con to GMFs. Each person must identify a different statement. Students as a group decide whether this particular piece is pro or con overall.

5. How do they feel now about GMFs? Tell the students to be prepared to defend their view using evidence from their piece. Students write the information first shared among their group down on easel paper and then share this with the entire class.
After hearing all this information what do students now feel?

Overhead 3 with the Zimbabwe headline/Green Revolution is projected. Just what is genetically modified food? We’re going to be looking at the biology behind genetically modified food and what is the impetus behind development of GMF?

Students need to document their dinners and identify the foods that could be GMF.

Embedded Assessment

PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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