GMOs: A Timely Inquiry-Based Learning Topic

seeding-fear-documentaryGMOs: A Timely Inquiry-Based Learning Topic

by TeachThought Staff

Who owns nature?

What is science?

Do we fully understand the long-term effects of science–and if we don’t, how should that change how we “practice science”?

Should there be limits to the reach of technology? To what we change, and how?

What is the role of generosity under the rules of Capitalism?

Should there be limits to the enforcement of laws?

How is technology changing food? Is this good thing?

How can we respond to rapid population growth? Is it okay to have that response guided entirely by single “fields” (e.g., science, technology, politics, etc.)?

What does compromise imply?

How does bias affect thinking?

How does family legacy impact our work and our craftsmanship?

How is identity fixed, and how is it fluid?

Who is accountable to whom, and how?

What is universal?

These are a few of the kinds of questions the documentary below explores. The topic is GMO–genetically modified organisms (in this case, foods).¬†There’s considerable controversy–here’s some thinking that leans one way, and here’s some that leans another. (And see here for further reading.) Since we’re primarily concerned not with the science or cultural strands here, but those education-based, we’re presenting it here as a timely and ranging inquiry-based learning topics that could reach across content areas.

Neil Young writes:

As I write this, the dark act is up for a vote in the House of Representatives; representatives of the people. The dark act takes away the rights of those people to vote for or against things like GMO labeling in their states. It does seem ironic. If the act is passed, it will truly be a dark day for America.

Monsanto is a corporation with great wealth, now controlling over 90% of soybean and corn growth in America. Family farms have been replaced by giant agri corp farms across this great vast country we call home. Farm aid and other organizations have been fighting the losing battle against this for 30 years now.

Dairy and meat farming is done in those white sheds you see from the freeway, no longer on the green pastures of home with the old farmhouses and barns. Those beautiful buildings now stand in ruin across the country. This has happened on our watch while the country slept, distracted by advertising and false information from the corporations. Monsanto and others simply pay the politicians for voting their way. This is because of “Citizens United”, a legislation that has made it possible for corporations to have the same rights as people, while remaining immune to people’s laws.

Both Democratic and Republican front runners are in bed with Monsanto, from Clinton to Bush, as many government branches are and have been for years. This presidential election could further cement the dominance of corporation’s rights over people’s rights in America. If you have a voice you have a choice. Use it.

On the human side, the film I would like you to see tells the story of a farming family in America, but the same thing is happening around the world. It is a story that takes 10 minutes of your time to see. It is a simple human one, telling the heartbreaking story of one man who fought the corporate behemoth Monsanto, and it illustrates why I was moved to write The Monsanto Years.

The film presents a rare opportunity to hear from the source as Mr. White is one of only four farmers who is still legally allowed to speak about his case as all the others have been effectively silenced.

Thanks for reading this and I hope you look at this simple and powerful film, “Seeding Fear.”

Seeding Fear: An Inquiry-Based Learning Topic?; inquiry-based learning topics; GMOs: A Timely Inquiry-Based Learning Topic


  • Why not have a debate about whether the Earth is round or does the Earth have increasing CO2 levels or do vaccines cause autism? This is a very dangerous and chemophobic topic. There are very few issues with GMOs and those that exist have nothing to do with the genetic modification, just some foods have issues such as allergies or environmental impacts from farming. Those same issues exist for all crops.

    People against GMOs don’t know what they are, they do not know that they consume them regularly, they do not know that they have been rigorously tested. They do not know they have been around for a long time, they do not know how beneficial they are to both eradicating hunger as well as providing life-saving nutrition. Here is a great article on why the anti-GMO movement is dangerous and this lesson appears to feed right into this nonsense unless I am missing something.

      • You’re welcome! No I did not watch the video nor debate, but I glanced through both and neither look like very important points are made based on the reviews and the video looks like it is just about farming politics not GMOs. Look I teach nuclear waste disposal, but I go through a very strict series of modeling to educate the students on how outrageous some environmental protections are, which ones are reasonable and how ignorant the general population is on the topic. Despite that a solution for that is probably going to happen during their lifetimes so it’s important for them to thoroughly understand some basics about it.
        I still see this as treacherous and likely to lead to chemophobic rhetoric. I can see the potential for someone to avoid that, but it seems very high risk low reward and this article doesn’t set up a standard teacher to properly do that. If there is a point that differentiates GMO from non-GMO food, I would read it gladly, but using more pesticide or something that applies equally to both isn’t going to impress me much. Might I recommend that instead of GMO, you just talk about farming practices or the destructiveness of advertising on labels of food in places like Whole Foods.

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