Last Friday I came across a news article that I think would make a great escalator for science classroom discussions. This news article discussed pharming.
Pharming is a process by which scientists alter the genes of a plant in order to produce new drugs. This is not a new science issue, as it was experimented with in the Midwest years ago. However, the new problem is that despite the failure of previous attempts, scientists are trying this experiment again, this time in California.
Professor Danielle is the lead scientists in the latest push for the development of pharming in California. He proposes using lettuce as the vehicle for his pharming initiatives. However, this is a very dangerous experiment as there are (1) no safety standard laws for pharming yet and (2) there really is no way to keep pharming produce from interbreeding with non pharmed produce, or from keeping the pharmed produce out of our regular food supply.
To turn this news story into a classroom discussion you have several angles that you can take. First of all you can use this news story to start a discussion on genetic engineering. You can also use this new story to initiate a discussion about the ethics of science. Finally this news article can be used to inspire students to develop science projects based on genetics, food safety or other related concepts.
Finding inspiration for life science experiments and interesting earth science experiments is not difficult. News articles, scholastic science magazines, and current events can all be great resources for information.