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The genetic manipulation of plants and animals and their use in agriculture is one of the most controversial scientific developments of recent times. This free course, Social issues and GM crops, takes a look at the science behind the headlines and the complex interactions between scientific and social factors. By the end of the course it's hoped that you will have a clearer idea not only of what is possible with GM but what may be considered desirable.
By the end of this free course you should be able to:
- understand some of the social issues surrounding the development of GM crops;
- better understand some of the social issues surrounding the development of GM crops, especially those that are ethical in nature;
- better appreciated the disputed nature of the science that underpins GM crop development and how these relate to modern methods of assessing the safety of GM foods;
- explain how the public consultation exercise relating to the possible commercialisation of GM crops was conducted in the UK and the merits and drawbacks of that approach.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Preamble
- 2 Concerns about GM crops
- 3 A key point in the controversy over GM crops: the Pusztai affair
- 4 Assessing the safety of GM food
- 5 Public views and the GM Nation? debate
- 6 Summary
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
Social issues and GM crops
This unit is an adapted extract from the course
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 unit. 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.
Note: This unit follows on from Gene manipulation in plants, and it is recommended that you study that unit before going on to read this one.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Friday, 3rd June 2011
Last updated on: Sunday, 2nd September 2012
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
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