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ETD 21: A. What are GMOs? B. What are 3 Pros + 3 Cons of GMOs?
October 28, 2013 at 4:02pm


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Randall Mueller
October 29, 2013 at 5:53pm

Student response: Through discussing this with my mom, I learned more about Initiative 522. We also discussed the pros of GMOs, which a lot of people often overlook. In order to describe how GMOs are made, I had to explain what a plasmid is and how they can be used to modify genetic code. 

Parent response: This was a timely subject, with the vote for 522 on the November 5 ballot!  I'm a little unsure as to whether GMOs are inherently bad or good, but after having Randall explain to me how they work, I can see both sides.  I'm not comfortable with the control Monsanto has with corn seeds and Roundup - sounds like a monopoly with too much control - but I know they feed a lot of people.  I had never heard of Plasmids and their role in transferring code.  Super interesting conversation with my son - thank you!

Francisco Perez
October 29, 2013 at 10:43pm

Parent: Francisco taught me about GMOs. GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. They are organisms that have altered genes. The way this is done is by inserting a retrovirus into an organism such as a chicken which will have an effect on the chickens. The purpose of modifying genes is for potential benefit such as medicine, agriculture production, etc.

Student: Today i told my mom about genetically modified organisms. I told her what it stands for and how it is done. But, i mostly told my mom about the pros and cons of modifying genes. Some pros i told her was that this is a great way we obtain our medicine in virus form. Also, in terms of cons i told my mom about the Social debate on this subject and how it is as if we are playing the role of god. 

Kayla Harbold
October 30, 2013 at 8:19pm

STUDENT RESPONSE- the first thing I had to do to teach my mom was actually explain what a GMO was, specifically transgenic organisms. This was a bit easier since the vote on 522 is coming up and she knows that GMO's are just genetically modified foods/animals and I had also just taught her about plasmids and how they can be used to created GMO's. But to make it even clearer I told her GMO's are Organisms, plants and animals, that have new genes, or DNA, that had been taken from a different species and inserted into the genetic code of another species. I used the example of Round-up Ready corn to explain that with this corn farms could save a lot of time and energy the would spend weeding by spraying all the plants with herbicides that would only kill the weeds (since the corn is herbicide resistant). Another Pro i talked to her about was GMO's make food easier to grow so we can have more food for people and lastly, we can genetically alter them to be more nutritious, so another pro is we could have healthier food. However I also told her about the negatives. I told her about how new transgenic organisms were to humans and how we have lacking studies to prove or disprove the long term health effects they cause to us. Also I told her that we have given certain plants the genes they want but what happens when those plants pollenate and spread those genes. For example if the Round up ready corn spreads its Herbicide resistant gene, the weeds themselves could also become resistant to herbicides. And lastly, GMO's could put the ecosystems out of "wack". To show this I drew a food chain and showed a plant that had been modified to become pesticide resistant. So now you can put pesticides on the plant and not kill it, which means the insects that eat that plant have lost a food source and begin to die. well that means the birds that eat those insects also loose a food source and will begin to die- so on and so on. 

PARENTS RESPONSE: I am now a lot more aware of the positives and negative consequences of Transgenic Organisms and can now be a more aware voter for 522. I'm glad Kayla talked to me about what she is learning in class and that it actually can apply to life outside the classroom. She is a great teacher and learns a lot in class. Her drawing of the food chain and how one thing effected everything really helped me understand the negative side effects of GMO's

Cory Cox
October 30, 2013 at 8:50pm

A. GMO stands for Genetically modified organism. Companies take a GMO and use it on the food they sell. Corn for example, a company will take a GMO, place it onto corn and then spray pesticide all around the corn. This allows the pesticide to kill off all of the weeds without harming the corn!

B. Pros: 1. Faster Production. 2. Bigger Products. 3. Save $ and Time.

    Cons: 1. Unknown health impacts. 2. Genes can spread. 3. Potentially ruin ecosystem balance.

Parent: This is a great subject that the students are learning. Really important that they understand what they could be voting on (I522). Not to mention me! I now have a greater knowledge of GMO's and their positives and negatives.

Student: Although I am 17, I do wish that I could vote for I522. I am a really healthy person and want to know if some steroid injected corn is going into my mouth. I learned that when tested on rats, they showed signs pf cancer as well as tumors. If it can happen to a rat, why not us?! 

Tyler Brenneman
October 30, 2013 at 9:22pm


One pro I learned is that GMO's are used to modify foods and make them resistant to "round up" so farmers do not need to hire people to pull weeds since Round Up will kill the weeds. This saves money

One con I learned is that we have not had any long term experiments testing GMO's and the side effects of them. This means that genetically modifying organisms could potentially be harmful to us in long term.

After discussing this with Tyler, I think that GMO's are a rather new practice, and by nature, the least we alter natural foods, the better they are for us.  The more we alter the food, the less healthy they are for our bodies.

Tyler:   I learned from my father that round up will only last for 24 hours, and after that 24 hours it turns into a "Ert". In other words, once it becomes an "Ert", you can plant new things there. Also, he taught me that you can buy it in either concentrate or spray versions.

Keaton J.
November 02, 2013 at 9:30pm

I talked with my dad about Genetically Modified Organisms. I explained the concepts regarding gmos and how they benefit the society, but can also pose potential health risks that we don’t know about because this is a relatively new practice. I did a T-Chart of the pros and cons of GMOs. This personally, is a very interesting subject for me because it affects me as a consumer about eating food that has been genetically modified. I discussed the study about the rats and how their health had declined as a result of being introduced to GMO products. I introduced him to Trans genetic Organisms and how this can be a tool for scientific research – for example, we can change organisms to work for us – this subject raises many concerns, but is needed as the world is changing.

Keaton prepared a presentation on GMOS; he taught me the positive and negative reasoning behind them. Overall, I noticed how things are becoming more and more engineered to meet our needs then they ever were in the past. This is a subject that future generations will have to deal with, as there seems to be some underlying concerns regarding the practice of altering the genes.  GMOs seem to be a practice that is changing the natural evolution of animals/plants as they pick up the altered genes. He did a good job teaching the material to me. 


Jayaram Ravi
November 02, 2013 at 9:39pm

Parent: I got to learn a lot about GMOs right before voting on I-522. This helped confirm my suspicions about Genetically Modified Organisms. I learned that Genetically modified organism can help regrow organs and make medical proteins. It can help increase profits for corporations that make these genes. There are cons though, genes are patented and this leads to legal problems with the producing corporations. There are very few long term studies, and the mice study was really astonishing, and there is a huge social debate on altering animals.

Student: When presenting the facts it was hard to present both sides of the argument. My dad already had a preconceived bias against GMOS. So I had to explain the pros. It also lead to me to further research about the initiative and GMOs. I learned about how genetically modified salmon are out competing native salmon and that causes the native male salmon to not be able to reproduce. But these GM male salmon are not engineered to reproduce - so in essence the eggs of the native female salmon are wasted. This is causing a decline in salmon populations in certain areas.

Allie Duven
November 03, 2013 at 11:03am


Allie: Today I informed my parents about GMOs because they seemed a little unsure about how to vote on Initiative 522. I told them about transgenic organisms and how organisms are modified to include a gene of interest. I told them about the pros- they can be used to save time, money, be made to use less water and create more food. I also informed them about the cons- how the companies that produce the gene own the gene and how that inhibits research from being done which leads to many unknowns about the long term side effects of GMOS. I also told them about the rat study, I learned that the longest study that has been conducted was only for two years. The rats involved in the study suffered from various disease and many of them ended up dying prematurely. I think that our discussion helped them to understand the issue better so that they were informed voters.


Parent: I think that Allie provided me with a good perspective. The information was provided in a balanced way and helped me to make an objective decision. There are definitely benefits to GMOS for society and the companies that develop them. However, there could be some very serious consequences in continuing to use GMOS without knowing exactly how they will impact people long term.


Michaela Jensen
November 04, 2013 at 6:54pm

Student: To start I had to say what GMO stood for and then I had to explain what a plasmid was and how it worked it genetic engineering. Then my dad and I talked about the pros and cons of GMOs and how little we actually know about their long term effects. We spent quite a while talking about I-522 as my dad didn't know what it was. 

Parent: I think that your extra credit blogs are a very ingenious way of fostering the student-parent interaction and sharing of concepts and ideas.  Michaela taught me about GMOs and plasmids.  I had a lot of questions because these are very recent concepts. We discussed the benefits and repercussions of altering the genetic code in foods and other organisms to speed production, increase volume and make the overall production of food more efficient.  Thanks.

Jon Neil (Instructor)
November 12, 2013 at 4:26pm

Thank you to all that participated.  I was greatly impressed by the number of students who brought this praticular discussion of GMOs pro and cons to their parents. One great positiive of the Bio Blog mini-lessons is that the give Parent and students a chance to discuss challenging societal issues and how they relate to developments in the biological sciences.  Throughout the entries I was most impressed with the details that student provided for both pros and cons of GMOs, and as one parent mentioned it is important to see and present both sides of any issue in a balanced way so that the audience has the ultimate decision to make based on the evidence that you have provided.  For all the 17 year olds that voiced a strong desire to vote on the I-522 bill, but couldn't yet, keep that passion when it does come your time to cast your ballot.  In the mean time, keep spreading the word and looking for more information that is the major thing that we need to made a intelligent decision regarding the use of GMOs in the future.

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