Laurie Issel-Tarver from Ohlone College sent me a link to this new AgBiotech curriculum resource from the FDA. This was jointly developed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA). It's called "Science and the Food Supply" - Exploring Food Agriculture and Biotechnology - Teacher's Guide for High School Classrooms. You can download it for free.
This curricular supplement contains five modules:
1. Foundations of Agriculture
2. Genetic Engineering in Food Agriculture
3. Environmental Factors
4. Biotechnology and Nutrients
5. Food and Ingredient Evaluation
These all look pretty interesting and seem to be pretty update. Module 2 even contains an activity and videos on CRISPR.
I find it interesting that many of these modules focus on plant biotechnology and GMO plants. In recent years, many AgBiotech companies have also looked at alternatives to GMOs. Chipping technologies allows seed companies to cut out small pieces of seeds and perform more extensive genetic testing in order to identify seeds with the best traits. Companies have also invested in cloning plants through tissue culture. Plant tissue culture allows growers to propagate clones of plants in disease-free environments. Several InnovATEBIO colleges teach plant tissue culture as part of their biotech programs.
Seed treatments that protect seeds from mold and other disease-causing microbes that might be in the soil are another interesting area of plant-related AgBiotech. Many of these are based on soil microbiome studies. Some products use the plant microbiome to help fix nitrogen (N2) and mobilize phosphorus. Other microbiome products use fungi to increase drought tolerance, improve crop yield and seed germination, increase nutrient use, and stimulate seedling growth.
If you want to see what AgBiotech companies do, Biotech-Careers.org is a great place to explore. You can also learn about technical careers in AgBiotech and Food Science. Many of the technicians working in this area are focused on Food Safety. They inspect and test food and crops to make sure your food is safe and free of Salmonella or toxins such as aflatoxin.
Insects are another emerging area in AgBiotech. We often think of insects as pests, but insects can also be an agricultural crop. Many insects, like crickets and grubs, are a wonderful source of protein and nutrients. Producing insect protein can also be less harmful to the environment because of the carbon footprint is smaller.
Another interesting career area in AgBiotech is cloning. But this type of cloning isn't limited to genes. Both farmers and pet owners are interested in cloning because they can create animals with similar properties as their "parents." Some agriculture companies also focus on selling semen because it's easier to ship semen around the country than bulls. Learn what it's like to work in an AgBiotech company.
Lastly, algae are becoming a big economic force in AgBiotech. Not only are algae products used in food and nutritional supplements, algae are being used to capture carbon, create fuels, clean water, and construct biomaterials.