QAre the science curriculums at high schools or earlier teaching about biotech?

Are the science curriculums at high schools or earlier teaching about biotech?

AExpert Answer

High school science standards in California require students to learn the fundamentals of cell biology, genetics, evolution and ecology, topics that form a theoretical knowledge base supporting the applied science of biotechnology. Biotechnology is taught in many middle school and high school life science classes, including single-unit modules within a course, stand-alone elective biotechnology courses, and structured, multi-year academies that interact with local research universities and biotech companies.  A model high school academy program in our region is the Sheldon High School Biotech Academy. Students in the academy take four years of biotech-related life science courses, including two community college-level courses offered by the American River College Biotechnology Program.


Students at all levels are interested in how we can use our knowledge of the natural world to meet challenges in health care, agriculture and environmental sustainability.  Hot topics for classroom discussion in the arena of medical biotechnology include regenerative medicine, personal genomics and drug discovery.  Other areas of active inquiry and discussion are agricultural biotechnology, nanobiotechnology and renewable energy.  In particular, food security and managing global energy needs in the face of dwindling natural resources and climate instability (biofuels, bioenergy crops, drought-tolerant/water-use efficient (WUE) crops, nitrogen-use efficient (NUE) crops, etc.) pose big challenges.  Society needs young scientists and engineers to start mulling over solutions to these challenges and planning for careers in STEM (White House National Bioeconomy Blueprint, 2012). 


In regions with a high concentration of biotechnology companies and research universities, there are typically many opportunities for local schools to engage with academic and industry scientists working in biotech.  For example, to keep Northern California K–14 students and teachers up to speed with the latest biotech advances, we've established the BioTech SYSTEM consortium, which brings together colleges, universities, biotech industry partners and school districts.  One of our primary goals is to ensure that students know about training programs and career opportunities in our region's biotech community.  The main outreach activity of BioTech SYSTEM is the Teen Biotech Challenge web design competition for high school students, which encourages students to explore current topics in biotechnology (ag biotech, computational & systems biotech, drug discovery & biomanufacturing, environmental biotech, nanobiotech, personal genomics & human health, and regenerative medicine), including economic and societal impacts. 

Posted on January 31, 2018
Thank you for your question. There are various aspects of your question. I assume your question refers to the use of Agrobacterium rhizogenes by scientists to intentionally transfer genes from the bacterium to plants. Infection and DNA transfer from this bacterium occurs in nature all the time to cause disease. Such transformed plants are not classified as GMOs since transfer occurred naturally. If this is done by scientists then it would be classified as a GMO. Rules and... Read More
Posted on March 1, 2018
I’m a Monsanto scientist who has more than 20 years of experience with genetic modification of plants. I will try to answer your question, even though I don’t ever do experiments on animals, certainly not on humans, of course! Can humans be genetically modified…but a much bigger question is should humans be genetically modified? There are two ways to think about genetic modification of humans (or any animal). One way is modification of somatic cells, and the other is the... Read More
Posted on May 10, 2017
The simple answer is that 20+ years of composition assessments of GMO crops have demonstrated that crop composition is not appreciably affected by the GM process (1). In addition, data collected through that time have indicated that general factors such as the growth environment can contribute to notable variation in component levels (2). Plant agglutinins (or lectins) and amylase inhibitors are examples of anti-nutritional compounds that may be present in crops. The relevance of such a... Read More