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Gene manipulation in plants

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Genetic manipulation of crops is an issue of great current interest and controversy. This free course, Gene manipulation in plants, covers some of the basic science that underpins the debate and examines the hotly contested case study of the development of 'golden rice'. By looking at the science behind the headlines you will acquire a clearer idea of both what is possible in GM science and what may be considered desirable.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • understand more about the science that underlies the development of genetically modified organisms and in particular how gene transfer is brought about
  • know something of the potential benefits and uncertainties associated with gene transfer and the high levels of technical ingenuity involved
  • understand more the science that underpins the development of Golden Rice and understand why the usefulness of this product has proved so contentious.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 10 hours
  • Updated Tuesday 22nd March 2016
  • Intermediate level
  • Posted under Biology
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Gene manipulation in plants


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In recent years, scientists have made huge gains in their understanding of how genes can be altered and transferred from one organism to another - but that knowledge has been acquired amidst controversy and concern. The deep ethical concerns that have resulted from the emergence of genetic manipulation are explored in this course. We begin with an examination of the basic structure and function of genes. A number of pioneering examples and techniques are explored, helping to explain why our present-day view of genetic manipulation can combine feelings of optimism and unease. Examples are drawn from both plants (notably GM crops) and animals (including Dolly the sheep), with a special emphasis on the implications of promising medical techniques such as gene therapy. Our hope is that by exploring the science 'behind the headlines', and its interactions with the equally complex social factors, we will acquire a clearer idea of both what is possible and what may be desirable.

This OpenLearn course is an adapted extract from the Open University course S250 Science in context [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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