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close this bookEnvironmental Education in the Schools (Peace Corps, 1993)
close this folderActivities, activities and more activities
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentUsing the senses
View the documentAdopt-a-tree
View the documentDuplication
View the documentMusic/rap/dance/drama
View the documentGarbage shuffle
View the documentThe rain forest revue
View the documentThe all new water review
View the documentOriginal skit
View the documentBotswana adaptation
View the documentA conservation drama - Trouble in Tikonkowo
View the documentThe awful eight
View the documentRole plays and other simulations
View the documentThe commons dilemma
View the documentKey mangrove: A system in conflict
View the documentChange in a mangrove ecosystem
View the documentKey mangrove: A conflict of interests
View the documentPoints of view
View the documentMining on the moon
View the documentMining on the moon: Part 1
View the documentMining on the moon: Part 2
View the documentThe reading and writing connection
View the documentFolk stories
View the documentSelected quotes
View the documentA heated controversy
View the documentA heated controversy: Part 1
View the documentA heated controversy: Part 2
View the documentAn environmental education tool - The creative journal
View the documentCubatao: New life in the Valley of Death
View the documentA letter from the village health worker - Clean water for elemit
View the documentLife without oil
View the documentPoetry
View the documentAway with waste!
View the documentAway on the bay
View the documentPicture poetry
View the documentShades of meaning
View the documentPoetry trail
View the documentPoetry trail activity sheet
View the documentCartoons, fantasy, and creative
View the documentThe rare scare
View the documentCartoons and headlines
View the documentHoley ozone!
View the documentGuided imagery
View the documentFlight of fantasy
View the documentRiparian retreat
View the documentWater wings
View the documentDemonstrations
View the documentOur watery world
View the documentKeep on truckin'
View the documentHow do polyps build reefs?
View the documentInvestigations and experiments
View the documentAcid tests
View the documentAcid demonstrations: Part I
View the documentAcid demonstrations: Part II
View the documentAcid test follow-up
View the documentHow can an oil spill be cleaned up?
View the documentThe case for case studies
View the documentAre we creating deserts? - The Sahel famine
View the documentStudent information - Famine in the Sahel: A case study
View the documentDesertification
View the documentSustainable development
View the documentDefining sustainable development: Part 1
View the documentDefining sustainable development: Part 2
View the documentCase study: United States: Part 3
View the documentCase study: Thailand: Part 4
View the documentCase study: Tanzania: Part 5
View the documentMoral dilemmas
View the documentThe flying foxes of Samoa
View the documentHarry Carter's grain company
View the documentScenario: Harry Carter's grain company: Part 1
View the documentScenario: Harry Carter's grain company: Part 2
View the documentScenario: Harry Carter's grain company: Part 3
View the documentHard choices
View the documentStarving nation
View the documentConcept mapping and webbing
View the documentAqua words
View the documentInfusion activity for environmental health
View the documentIssue webbing
View the documentField trips
View the documentAt the dump and postcards from the field
View the documentThe garbage dump field trip worksheet
View the documentSeaside adventure
View the documentDebates
View the documentTough choices
View the documentThe issues
View the documentSurveys
View the documentGlass and metal waste questionnaire
View the documentModel questionnaire
View the documentData summary sheet
View the documentRivers through time
View the documentWhat do people think?
View the documentGames
View the documentPollution bingo
View the documentMammal know-it-all
View the documentMammal questions
View the documentBat and moth
View the documentBranching out: Bat math
View the documentThe urban explosion
View the documentFour urban activities
View the documentVandalism: Disordered communications
View the documentFlooded streets
View the documentGetting outside
View the documentExpanding sensory perception
View the documentWeather scavenger hunt
View the documentInsect bingo
View the documentResearch/guest speakers
View the documentDesert quest
View the documentValues and attitudes
View the documentRare bird eggs for sale
View the documentWhat would you do?
View the documentAgricultural practices (A)
View the documentAgricultural practices (B)
View the documentWhy save rain forests?
View the documentThinking about thinking skills
View the documentThe great swamp debate
View the documentGo with the flow
View the documentDragonfly pond
View the documentCooperative learning activities
View the documentJungle sleuths
View the documentAnswers to scenarios
View the documentSuper-sleuth scenarios: Part 1
View the documentSuper-sleuth scenarios: Part 2
View the documentWe can all be experts
View the documentExpert cards: Part 1
View the documentExpert cards: Part 2
View the documentRaters of the planet ECO
View the documentLiven up your classroom
View the documentA web on the wall
View the documentBuilding the bulletin board
View the documentMembers of the web
View the documentA look at four food chains
View the documentThe interdisciplinary connection
View the documentPollution pathways
View the documentTracking the radiation (day 2- day 10)
View the documentPollution pathways (A)
View the documentPollution pathways (B)
View the documentSizing up reserves
View the documentSizing up reserves (A)
View the documentScience/technology/society
View the documentChallenge technology
View the documentTechnology challenges
View the documentAdditional challenges (developed for the South Pacific)
View the documentThe ''good'' bacteria controversy
View the documentTaking action for the planet

The ''good'' bacteria controversy

Read and discuss different views about specially engineered bacteria.


Social studies, ethics

Copies of information and questions.

Two scientists at the University of California at Berkeley received permission from the NIH (National Institute of Health) advisory committee to perform a rather simple test using specially engineered bacteria, Pseudomonas syringae. Pseudomonas live as parasites in the leaves of many plants. When the temperature falls to freezing (00C), these bacteria produce a protein upon which ice crystals can form. The frost damages the plant, then the bacteria feed on the frost-damaged tissues. Plants free of Pseudomonas can, for brief periods, withstand temperatures as low as -1 50C before being harmed.

The two scientists, Steven Lindow and Nickolas Panopoulos, produced Pseudomonas without the gene that codes for the "culprit" protein. They intended to spray them on crops in sufficient quantity to drive out the normal bacteria. This would prevent crop losses in the event of unseasonal frosts. It would also extend the growing season and increase production.

The scientists had used these techniques very successfully in greenhouse experiments. They wanted to spray an agricultural field to determine if their technique would really work.

One citizen, Jeremy Rifkin, thought that releasing organisms altered by gene splicing could endanger public health and the environment. He campaigned against all recombinant DNA research. He equated such research with Nazi eugenics. He was aware of the medical and scientific gains attributed to DNA research, but he remained totally against it.

In 1977, Rifkin sought an injunction against the Berkeley researchers to prohibit them from releasing the bacteria. Much to the surprise of the scientists, shock might be a better word, Judge John J. Sirica complied with Rifkin's request. Sirica also directed the NIH not to consider proposals for experiments involving the release of engineered organisms into the environment.

Judge Sirica raised two significant questions during the proceedings:

Did the NIH, in granting permission to Lindow and Panopoulos to conduct the experiment, assess the risks involved as required by federal laws?

Should society (that is, the courts), rather than the scientific community, regulate the growing field of biotechnology?

Until now, the NIH advisory committee had been the sole judge on any issues dealing with gene splicing experiments funded by the government. Private companies did not have to go through this committee. However, many companies did voluntarily seek clearance from the committee.

In making his judgment, what did Judge Sirica imply about the job done by NIH's DNA advisory committee?

From your reading, how well do you think the DNA advisory committee had performed? Explain your answer.

During the hearing, both sides tried to get the judge to listen to expert testimony. Judge Sirica refused, maintaining that he was not there to judge science but to determine whether the NIH had followed required procedures. That is, did the NIH, as Rifkin charged, violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). NEPA requires federal officials to file environmental impact statements before approving "action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment."

Some scientists, while not pleased with the ruling, felt that the hearing had raised some significant issues. The following are observations from scientific experts:

"There is an appropriate time and place for public debate on the introduction of genetic engineering techniques in our society. However, by vastly exaggerating the possibility of a genetic catastrophe, Rifkin obscured any legitimate concerns the public may have."

-Frederick Ausubel, Genetics Professor, Harvard Medical School

"To agree that is a new life-form (Lindow and Panopoulos' genetically engineered Pseudomonas) and is capable of upsetting a delicate ecological balance is to suggest that two individuals who differ in an eye color gene are different life-forms, or that an individual who is treated with a drug to protect against the action of a deleterious gene product will upset nature's good design."

-Paul Berg, Geneticist, Stanford University, Nobel Prize winner for pioneering work in recombinant DNA

"Recombinant DNA technology is a tool, no more moral or immoral than electricity, fire, or the hammer. Let's not allow misguided fears to deny its benefits to ourselves and posterity."

-Harold Slavkin, Biochemist, University of Southern California

"The release of gene-spliced microorganisms into the environment at this stage, before any type of assessment has been made, would be totally irresponsible."

-Liebe Cavalieri, Biochemist, Sloan-Kettering Institute

"... The historical record shows severe problems have resulted when alien species have been imported into the United States. The Japanese beetle and gypsy moth have caused great problems. Genetically-engineered organisms could do the same...altered bacteria could get into the atmosphere and eventually change the climate by retarding the formation of ice crystals."

-David Pimentel, Ecologist, Cornell University

"I continue to believe that the factors need to be considered carefully, but if I were a member of the RAC (Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee), I would vote to allow these experiments to proceed."

-Peter Raven, Botanist, Washington University, St. Louis

The approved test not only presents no threat to the environment, but the approach to be used is environmentally one of the least disruptive known for the protection of plants against harmful organisms.

-James Cook, Plant Pathologist, U.S. Department of Agriculture

With which statements do you agree?

With which do you think Judge Sirica would agree?

Judge Sirica ruled against genetic engineering research. Do you agree with him?