GMO PCR – Has the DNA in my food been modified?

GMO PCR Lab Introduction
Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, though largely accepted for production of medicine like recombinant human insulin, remain controversial and often misunderstood for applications such as food production. In this lesson, students learn about how and why GM crops are made and use PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) to detect genetic modification in a food product of their choice.
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    In the lab portion, students first extract DNA from their food product. Next, they use PCR to amplify a gene ubiquitous to all plants (RuBisCo) but also for the 35S promoter commonly found in GMOs. After visualizing their results using gel electrophoresis, students will determine whether their food product contains GM ingredients.

    This lab provides a great opportunity for students to use important molecular biology skills (micropipetting, gel electrophoresis, PCR) and to deepen their understanding of what a GMO really is. This could also lead to a broader classroom discussion about the controversy surrounding the labeling and use of GMOs.

Lesson Resources
Student Guide – Download and edit student worksheets to be completed during the GMO PCR Lab.
Lesson Slides – Articulates with the student guide above and accompanying lesson plans below.
Lesson Plan – Suggested times for pacing, sequence and activities for the lab. Includes vocabulary tool and other lesson resources.
Supplemental Resources – Includes background information, outside articles, videos, and more related to the lab

Lab Resources
Student Protocol – Students follow these instructions when doing the GMO PCR Lab.
Preparing the Classroom for the Lab – How to set up group stations for this lab experience.
Inventory Guide – Reagents and materials checklist for one classroom kit. Includes equipment and classroom needs for the lab.

  • Perform DNA Extraction, PCR, and Gel Electrophoresis to detect the presence of GM crops in a food product
  • Define GMO and describe different examples of GM crops
  • Construct a scientific model that explains how and why a particular GM crop was made

Disciplinary Core Ideas:
LS1-A Structure and Function

  • “…genes are regions in the DNA that contain the instructions that code for the formation of proteins…”

LS3-A Inheritance of Traits

  • “…genes (expressed) by the cell may be regulated in different ways…”

Science and Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Constructing Explanations

  • Students make a graphic model to explain how a genetic modification in a plant that is used to make a food product leads to a new trait.

Crosscutting Concepts:
Systems and System Models
Cause and Effect

  • Students explore the relationship between genes, proteins, and traits by exploring genetic modification in crops.

Familiarity with the following biology concepts may be helpful for students prior to using the lesson resources

  • Structure and function of DNA
  • Relationship between genes and the proteins they code for (DNA → mRNA → protein)
  • Experience with DNA extraction, micropipetting and gel electrophoresis.

Kitty MeiGMO PCR – Has the DNA in my food been modified?