50 Shades of Green: Lesson Plan

Researchers use greenhouses to apply and test high tech science in hopes of helping farmers produce higher yields that are also drought and disease resistant.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • NCES.Bio.3.3.3 — Evaluate some of the ethical issues surrounding the use of DNA technology (including cloning, genetically modified organisms, stem cell research and Human Genome Project).

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will discuss aspects of biotechnology and the implications they have for agriculture.

Essential Questions

  1. What is biotechnology? What genetic information is used in biotechnology? 
  2. How does a specific example of biotechnology work? 
  3. How does biotechnology affect agriculture? 

Essential Vocabulary

  • Cross-breeding
  • Genomics
  • Traits
  • Nematodes
  • Chlorosis
  • Transgenetic


On the board, list the following farm crops: corn, soybeans, cotton and sugar beets. Ask students to list foods or other products made from these crops. Point out that corn meal is used to make a variety of foods, and cooking oil is often made from corn and soybeans. Although most sugar comes from sugar cane, sugar beets are an important source of table sugar. Then tell students that much of the supply of these four crops comes from genetically modified plants. Invite students to share what they know about genetic technology and agriculture, and record their ideas. Encourage the class to revisit and revise their list of ideas throughout the lesson.


Students will work independently to gather information about genetic technology and transgenic plants. Encourage students to take notes about the information they learn at these Internet sites, and to explore related sites that present additional information.


Students will view the NC Science Now video 50 Shades of Green. After viewing the video, students should answer the following questions:

  1. What is the expectation concerning population increase, and how does that influence decisions related to crop science?
  2. What are two aspects of traditional agriculture related to increasing food supply? 
  3. List and describe the two methods used to put new traits into plants. 
  4. Describe the three goals of the Bayer Science Greenhouse. 
  5. Compare and contrast the characteristics of corn, wheat and rice, as described in the video.


Students will prepare and conduct a survey to assess people's knowledge and opinions of genetically modified plants. First, have students work in small groups to prepare items for a survey sheet. The sheet could include factual statements or opinions that participants rate on a scale from "disagree strongly" to "agree strongly." Work with students to decide whether the class will collaborate to conduct a single survey, or whether students should conduct separate surveys individually. Students may conduct the survey by interviewing other students in the school, as well as friends and family members. Then students should tabulate and analyze the results.



Students will collaborate to generate a class report on "New Fields for Food." Divide the class into small groups. Each group will prepare a segment of the report, focusing on one of these topics: 

  • History: Describe the history of, and initial uses for, transgenetic (or biotech) crops. 
  • Uses and Benefits: Describe and provide examples of how transgenic plants improve farm crops. 
  • Controversy: Discuss the issues of safety, ethics and environmental health that surround transgenic plants and genetic technology. 
  • The Future: Predict the role of transgenic plants and genetic technology in the future of agriculture. Include facts and other evidence to support your predictions.

Work with all groups to ensure that all students participate. Encourage students to conduct research to support their opinions with evidence, and to quote the opinions of experts when possible. Students should cite the sources of the information or graphics that they include in their report. Combine the individual segments, either in print or electronic formats, to generate the class report.