Genetically Modified Food: Feeding the Future or Poisoning the Planet?


You will learn about the arguments for and against genetically modified foods (GMFs). As a class, you will critically analyze the merits and drawbacks of these foods and decide whether they should be permitted to continue to be a part of the American diet.


· Research arguments for the use of GMFs

· Research arguments against the use of GMFs

· Critically analyze the rhetoric of these arguments and determine credible and worthwhile information from speculation, hearsay, and other weaker claims.


This activity will be a simulated courtroom trial. Each of you will have an important role in the investigation of the issues surrounding the use of GMFs. There is a wealth of material available on the Internet from reputable sources on the topic. As well, many journals, both from the industry and antagonistic perspective are available. While some of you will be assigned to research the position in support of GMFs, others will research the arguments against these foods.

Background Research Information Links

Many resources for critical thinking are available on the Internet and books are available in the library. One book that is particularly excellent was written by Neil Brown and Stuart Keeley and is entitled, Asking the Right Questions. NJ: Prentice Hall. 2001. A partial list of Internet

references is offered below. This should get you started on your research. Many of the links

below have several other links. While the first two links are general in nature, the rest of the links

are specific to the project.


1. The classroom will be set up like a courtroom. The jury will sit in the front of the room. On one side of the classroom, the Pro-GMF attorney will sit. On the other side of the classroom, the Con-GMF attorney will sit. In addition to the jury and attorneys, there will be witnesses called for testimony. They include:

1. a. GMF researcher(s): Understand(s) the science of genetic engineering and can assure policy-makers that GMFs are safe

b. Monsanto spokesperson: interest in profiting from technologies of GMFs

2. a. Animal rights activist: feels it is ethically unjust to patent animal species

b. Environmentalist(s): there are many environmental concerns associated with GMFs

3. a. Large scale farmer who currently cultivates in a dry, cold climate: recognizes both benefits and drawbacks of GMFs

e. Medical doctor: Realizes potential benefits and drawbacks of GMFs

2. The Pro side will begin with a three-five minute opening statement (the teacher will time you). It will then call up witnesses. After each witness is called, the Con side will have an opportunity to cross-examine.

3. When the Pro side has completed presentation of its case, the Con side will make a three to five minute opening statement and will then call up witnesses. After each witness has been questioned, the Pro side will have an opportunity to cross-examine.

4. After each side has questioned and cross-examined witnesses, each may make a closing argument of no more than three minutes (the teacher will time you).

5. While presentations, questioning, and cross-examining are taking place, jury should be taking notes and assessing the merits of arguments. After the class (whether the trial lasts for one or two classes), the jurors will get together and decide what U.S. policy, will be on GMFs.

Please note that you need not completely agree with the Pro side or the Con side. You may have been influenced by both, either, or neither side, your own research and discussion with other policy-makers.

5. Attorneys should prepare their witnesses for questions they will ask of each said witness. In addition, the questioning attorneys should work with each witness to anticipate potential cross-examination questions. This is where critical thinking research will be particularly effective.

6. Every student in the class will write a one-page paper explaining how their own thinking has changed on the issue through this exercise. To wit, what have you learned and how has the learning impacted your thinking?

* Adapted from Dr. Edward Wells, Wilson College, in conjunction with the Environmental Literacy Council Summer Lab Development Team 2004