Genetically modified food

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Activity 1: Reading

If (like me) you only have a vague idea of what GM foods are then a good place to start is this straightforward introduction from NEWSROUND. I think it gives a good clear simple introduction. Read the pages and watch the TV report here.

Activity 2: Reading – how a plant is modified

Vocabulary you need to know to read about GM food in the next media clip:

to isolate
specific
gene
particular
trait
resistance
bacterium
tumour
particle
trigger
charactersitic


Take a look at this explanation and description of how plants are genetically modified here.


Here’s the tricky bit: using the vocabulary above, can you explain the process of modification??

Activity 3: Listening to British students talk about GM food

The following video was made by teenagers in a London school. Use a pen and paper and note down what the following people say about GM food. You could put a tick if they are in favour, a ? if they don’t know or a X if they are against GM food. Here.

Malaika
Josh
Zak
Ben
Jemma
Lara
Hashmi
John Grayson
Jack M
Chris
Jack B
Jamie
Chao
Marcus
Patrice
Zoe
Charlie

Activity 4: Background reading and academic vocabulary

OK, this is where things get interesting. We are working up to a short video documentary on GM seeds in India. Before we get there, read the background about farming in India. There is some excellent academic vocabulary in this piece. 

I suggest you:
1. Print the text out if you can because working off screen is easier.
2. Read the text, understanding as much as you can.
3. Underline words you don’t know and try to guess their meaning.
4. Use an advanced English learners dictionary to look up words.
5. Record new useful vocabulary in your vocabulary notebook!

The text is here.

Advanced students should be making sure that they can use these words: 

poverty
poverty line
attribute to
reform
imbalance
exacerbate
drought
chip in (not academic, informal, but tricky = contribute/give money, learn to recognise, but not use)
incentives
yield/high-yield
eliminate
irrigate
render
infertile
diversify
deteriorate
commit suicide

Activity 5: Watching a video

It is essential that you have done activity 4 before you do this one. Activity 4 sets the scene for the documentary and has a list of academic vocabulary that you should know for these lessons. The documentary claims that poor farmers in India have used Bt cotton (a genetically modified product) and are worse off than before. It is essential that you have done activity 4 before you do this one. Activity 4 sets the scene for the documentary and has a list of academic vocabulary that you should know for these lessons. The documentary claims that poor farmers in India have used Bt cotton (a genetically modified product) and are worse off than before. The video (and article which will help you understand it) is here. Text is below. Try it without the text first, and then refer to the text only when necessary. Post any questions you have.

Text: Urban India is on the move. Cities like Hyderabad are all about upgrading to a new lifestyle. Globalisation is transforming this high tech city and helping to create India’s new middle class. These are the children of globalisation. They are enjoying a life style their parents could only dream of. But this isn’t the story I’m here to cover. Just beyond this high tech boom is another world the bulk of India’s 1.1 billion people are part of rural India, and this population still struggles. I’m on my way to a funeral. In this region last summer an average of 7 farmers a day were killing themselves. Many simply drank the pesticides they were using on their fields. This is the other side of globalisation. Farmers who lost crops due to drought, overburdened by debt or shamed by neighbours, found little help from the government. I arrived at this field to find the ashes of MS. Just a few days earlier he woke up, went to his parched field and drank a bottle of pesticide. He died within a few hours now his wife wails for him, calling forth his soul. His family says his suicide was in response to the mounting debts. His brother walked out to M’, fields with me. The monsoon was more than a month late last summer so M borrowed money to dig two wells. Both came up dry. M’s debts continued to mount as his crops dried up and money lenders from the village continued to knock at his door. Rain clouds gathered behind us as we talked, a kind of cruel irony since M’s story is a struggle for water. The rain started as we started back to the house. I spoke to M’s twin sons. The green revolution of the 1960s and 70s spawned modern farming in India from the west came machinery, chemical fertilisers and hybrid seeds promising higher yields. Historically the farmers in this region grew a diversity of food crops but that’s changed. Most farmers now plant cash crops for export and here cotton is king. In 1998 under the World Bank’s new lending policies India opened its seed sector to international agribusiness: small cotton farmers in India would now be competing with giant farmers in the West. Companies like Cargill and Monsanto promoted their new seed technology but researchers found that this hi tech cotton actually needed more water and more chemicals to grow. Additional cost strangled small farmers. Then came genetically modified cotton from Monsanto. It’s known as BT cotton for the bacteria gene it contains : a naturally occurring insecticide which repel boreworm. Monstanto insists that this new generation of genetically modified cotton will save farmers money because fields will require fewer sprayings of pesticides. BT technology should repel boreworm for 90 days but these farmers fields are covered with boreworm and it’s only been 60 days so far. This leaves the farmers confused. Researcher KS explains. ….(Already has boreworm…there’s no pest there….) For many small farmers the attraction of high yields are more profit are worth the risk but these farmers are essentially guinea pigs for what many experts think is still experimental technology. And farmers turn to the seed dealer for advice. (In India especially in cotton growing areas…..) Traditional practices of educating farmers have broken down in India. Where once there was a government expert they could turn to for honest advice now they have to trust the dealer. ( He simply says…) Dealers receive incentives from companies for promoting certain products and they often blame farmers if the crops fail. Under this system the seed dealer may not always have the farmers’ best interests at heart. They also claim that the farmers often ignore their instructions. When I asked about farmers’ suicides they said they were only vaguely aware of this. They said they also required a signature stating that these products would only be used for farming, not drinking. Besides the dealers, the poor farmers also follow the lead of the wealthy farmers in the village. KK did just that. Because these high tech seeds cost four times more than traditional seeds K was forced to take out a loan. Very few small farmers have access to credit from banks so they go to wealthy landlords in their village to borrow money. But then disaster struck. Altogether K lost 2 entire crops. When the money lender demanded payments K and his wife began fighting. That night he returned home to find that his wife had eaten the rat poison he had used on his fields. She died three days later leaving behind K and their three small children. With no income from his crops, K is now simply an indentured servant forced to work the land belonging to the money lender from whom he had borrowed. Incredibly he blames no one. the current system has many small and marginal farmers trapped in a cycle of debt but some say it doesn’t have to be this way. Things are different on S’s farm. Last year with the help of a local NGO she gave up conventional cotton farming and switched to growing organic cotton. Yields may not be as good as what’s generated by high tech seeds but she is free of the burden of the cost of chemicals. And she also won’t suffer a huge loss of investment if there’s trouble. (When they were doing conventional farming they had to borrow money and pay for pesticides and fertilisers so she says here the investment is less ……) In her fields you still find boreworms but you’ll also find plenty of helpful insects such as these ladybugs. S makes her own insecticides right here at home from a mixture of cowdung and cow urine and butter and her fields are fertilised by this compost. The savings are significant. Per acre of cotton she’ll spend about 40 dollars where a high tech farmer can spend as much as 200 dollars per acre. Growing organic cotton is a small scale solution and suicides among debt ridden farmers remain a massive problem . Nationwide in India more than 25 000 suicides have been reported since 1997 and in this state alone there’s been more than 4000. So in this tragic epidemic experts say farmers should have more access to credit, education and water for their fields. Globalisation and new technologies have created an economic boom and an expanding middle class but for thousands of rural Indians these seeds of change have instead become seeds of suicide.”>here.


Text is below. Try it without the text first, and then refer to the text only when necessary. Post any questions you have.

Text:
Urban India is on the move. Cities like Hyderabad are all about upgrading to a new lifestyle. Globalisation is transforming this high tech city and helping to create India’s new middle class. These are the children of globalisation. They are enjoying a life style their parents could only dream of. But this isn’t the story I’m here to cover. Just beyond this high tech boom is another world the bulk of India’s 1.1 billion people are part of rural India, and this population still struggles. I’m on my way to a funeral. In this region last summer an average of 7 farmers a day were killing themselves. Many simply drank the pesticides they were using on their fields. This is the other side of globalisation. Farmers who lost crops due to drought, overburdened by debt or shamed by neighbours, found little help from the government. I arrived at this field to find the ashes of MS. Just a few days earlier he woke up, went to his parched field and drank a bottle of pesticide. He died within a few hours now his wife wails for him, calling forth his soul. His family says his suicide was in response to the mounting debts. His brother walked out to M’, fields with me. The monsoon was more than a month late last summer so M borrowed money to dig two wells. Both came up dry. M’s debts continued to mount as his crops dried up and money lenders from the village continued to knock at his door. Rain clouds gathered behind us as we talked, a kind of cruel irony since M’s story is a struggle for water. The rain started as we started back to the house. I spoke to M’s twin sons. The green revolution of the 1960s and 70s spawned modern farming in India from the west came machinery, chemical fertilisers and hybrid seeds promising higher yields. Historically the farmers in this region grew a diversity of food crops but that’s changed. Most farmers now plant cash crops for export and here cotton is king. In 1998 under the World Bank’s new lending policies India opened its seed sector to international agribusiness: small cotton farmers in India would now be competing with giant farmers in the West. Companies like Cargill and Monsanto promoted their new seed technology but researchers found that this hi tech cotton actually needed more water and more chemicals to grow. Additional cost strangled small farmers. Then came genetically modified cotton from Monsanto. It’s known as BT cotton for the bacteria gene it contains : a naturally occurring insecticide which repel boreworm. Monstanto insists that this new generation of genetically modified cotton will save farmers money because fields will require fewer sprayings of pesticides. BT technology should repel boreworm for 90 days but these farmers fields are covered with boreworm and it’s only been 60 days so far. This leaves the farmers confused. Researcher KS explains. ….(Already has boreworm…there’s no pest there….) For many small farmers the attraction of high yields are more profit are worth the risk but these farmers are essentially guinea pigs for what many experts think is still experimental technology. And farmers turn to the seed dealer for advice. (In India especially in cotton growing areas…..) Traditional practices of educating farmers have broken down in India. Where once there was a government expert they could turn to for honest advice now they have to trust the dealer. ( He simply says…) Dealers receive incentives from companies for promoting certain products and they often blame farmers if the crops fail. Under this system the seed dealer may not always have the farmers’ best interests at heart. They also claim that the farmers often ignore their instructions. When I asked about farmers’ suicides they said they were only vaguely aware of this. They said they also required a signature stating that these products would only be used for farming, not drinking. Besides the dealers, the poor farmers also follow the lead of the wealthy farmers in the village. KK did just that. Because these high tech seeds cost four times more than traditional seeds K was forced to take out a loan. Very few small farmers have access to credit from banks so they go to wealthy landlords in their village to borrow money. But then disaster struck. Altogether K lost 2 entire crops. When the money lender demanded payments K and his wife began fighting. That night he returned home to find that his wife had eaten the rat poison he had used on his fields. She died three days later leaving behind K and their three small children. With no income from his crops, K is now simply an indentured servant forced to work the land belonging to the money lender from whom he had borrowed. Incredibly he blames no one. the current system has many small and marginal farmers trapped in a cycle of debt but some say it doesn’t have to be this way. Things are different on S’s farm. Last year with the help of a local NGO she gave up conventional cotton farming and switched to growing organic cotton. Yields may not be as good as what’s generated by high tech seeds but she is free of the burden of the cost of chemicals. And she also won’t suffer a huge loss of investment if there’s trouble. (When they were doing conventional farming they had to borrow money and pay for pesticides and fertilisers so she says here the investment is less ……) In her fields you still find boreworms but you’ll also find plenty of helpful insects such as these ladybugs. S makes her own insecticides right here at home from a mixture of cowdung and cow urine and butter and her fields are fertilised by this compost. The savings are significant. Per acre of cotton she’ll spend about 40 dollars where a high tech farmer can spend as much as 200 dollars per acre. Growing organic cotton is a small scale solution and suicides among debt ridden farmers remain a massive problem . Nationwide in India more than 25 000 suicides have been reported since 1997 and in this state alone there’s been more than 4000. So in this tragic epidemic experts say farmers should have more access to credit, education and water for their fields. Globalisation and new technologies have created an economic boom and an expanding middle class but for thousands of rural Indians these seeds of change have instead become seeds of suicide.

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