On Friday, February 10, 2017, Liberty Junior High Resource Teacher, Mrs. Browne, invited Genetic Scientist, Mrs. Ehlert to participate in a class discussion, via a FaceTime conference call, to help address the issue of genetically modified organisms or GMOs.
Ms. Ehlert skillfully described the issue at hand and the importance of questioning everything in our daily lives. Her university lab background exposure, along with the work experience as a software engineer for the EPIC Company in Madison, Wisconsin, allowed her to shed light on the controversy surrounding the use of GMOs. Mrs. Ehlert used middle school friendly terms to explain basic cell components along with their functions, and the means by which scientists now embed pesticides into the cells of crop seeds.
In addition, she discussed both the benefits and the risks of using GMOs from the science stand point. Moreover, Mrs. Ehlert mentioned how corn and apples grown during the Colonial times were a lot different from today's crops. The scientist concluded that there are many reasons for genetic modifications of plants. In this case, by changing certain genes in apples, it dramatically improved their taste by making them sweeter. Another benefit is that it also increased the efficiency of the farming industry, and as a direct benefit to the consumer, it improved the vast availability of such produce.
Mrs. Ehlert skillfully connected the topic of GMOs to Social Studies, Language Arts, and, of course, Math. In life, we apply cross-curricular understanding and skills to improve our decision making as consumers.
Last but not least, she also emphasized an enormous role teachers play in the study of GMOs, consumer awareness, and societal responsibility. The scientist also mentioned that controversial issues are all a part of life. It is crucial to question and try to find answers because knowledge is so powerful. With the GMOs, the issue of not labeling produce adequately so consumers can be informed and decide for themselves, is an issue. Most of the anxiety of unidentified gene mutations and pesticides content in the produce that we are trying to fuel our bodies with, would perhaps be drastically reduced. On the other hand, some scientists might argue that labels containing such terminology as "Genetically modified and contain pesticides" will probably scare the consumers away.
Mrs. Ehlert ended with recognizing her teachers, and especially her mom, whom inspired her to pursue science experiences. The scientist concluded by saying, “Teachers initiate, and skillfully set proper wheels in motion! Thank them daily with an absolute and undivided attention."
As a result of this real life experience, so many students were motivated and empowered to keep researching, on their own, and continue on their learning quest about GMOs and other equally important issues in science. (The Scientific American and Purdue University in Indiana were mentioned by the scientist as the most user friendly and valuable sources online.)
On this ordinary Friday morning, Mrs. Ehlert has planted Organic or GMO seeds (Which one is better? What is Organic?) and inspired many students to pursue science and computer majors in their futures.
Link to learn more about the GMOs: