Video clip – Genetic engineering to increase productivity in rice

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This video clip from the BBC TV series Botany: A Blooming History discusses the importance of genetic engineering for feeding a growing population, introducing a group of research scientists working on rice.

As global demand for food increases, plant geneticists are working to increase the productivity of rice by investigating gene switches which control development of vascular tissue. The work is at an early stage, and involves difficult extraction of the meristems from the young plants in order to look at the gene expression in the developing tissues. The work is important because populations are increasing, fertilisers are increasingly expensive and rainfall is increasingly unpredictable.

Discuss the importance of genetic modification for the survival of people as our population increases. Students should consider and research the pros and cons of the type of work featured in relation to crop yield, land use conflicts, global trade and other issues. It can be used in the context of global warming and the ecology of LEDCs. It can also be used to discuss limiting factors and photosynthesis. Students could be encouraged to discuss the reasons for the importance of vascular tissue for photosynthesis, and how leaves are adapted for efficient photosynthesis. Students could observe leaves using microscopes – developing observation skills by comparing rice and Maize T.S. leaf sections.

You can see this on the BBC Four Botany: A Blooming History for a clear picture when using with students.

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