Problems/Case Studies

Pesticides: Can We Do Without Them?" Laurie A. Parendes, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, and Scott H. Burris, University of Missouri-Columbia. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching
By simulating a public hearing, this case study requires that students sift through and organize information on pesticide use presented to them from the perspective of different “stakeholders.” The case asks a fundamental question — Can we do without pesticides? — and gives students an opportunity to explore the ecological, ethical, economic, social, and political issues surrounding that question.
Developed for an environmental issues course, the case would be appropriate for any introductory course that addresses human-environment interactions.

"The Rocky Mountain Locust: Extinction and the American Experience". Charles R. Bomar, University of Wisconsin - Stout. State University of New York at Buffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching
This case explores the conservation and social issues associated with the destruction of vast tracts of farmland in the Great Plains in the late 1800s caused by massive swarms of the Rocky Mountain Locust, Melanoplus spretus.
The case was developed for a freshman non-majors environmental science course. Components of it could also be used in an ecology, general biology, public policy, history, or political science course.

"Bean Brew".  Biological Inquiry:  A workbook of investigative cases.  Waterman, Margaret, and Stanley, Ethel.  Campbell-Reese. pp. 15-25.
In this case study, biotechnology is explored in a transgenic fungus used in the brewing of soy sauce.  The topics investigated include soybean preservation, fermentation, membrane structure and function, metabolism, cellular respiration, and human application. 

"Corn under construction". 
Biological Inquiry:  A workbook of investigative cases.  Waterman, Margaret, and Stanley, Ethel.  Campbell-Reese. pp.  71-90. 
By sitting in on an agricultural meeting, students learn about the dangers of using genetically modified corn to keep away pests.  If all of the corn were planted with the transgenic pesticide, the pests would mutate and become stronger than ever.  Students learn about angiosperm reproduction and its advantages and disadvantages.  Students also make hypotheses relating to the corn mystery discussed at the meeting.  Students use tables and figures to interpret data. Students also investigate resistance management.

CNN Video Clips

Topic: "Organic Farming": Environmental Science 6th Ed. CNN Ed (1:37 min)
Over the past decade, the demand for organic food has grown by 15–20%, and because of this demand, consumers generally pay from 10–50% more for organic produce.  To assure consumers that agricultural products marked as organic met consistent and uniform standards, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990.  This law established strict guidelines that organic food be grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, or genetic modification.  The worksheet includes the URL to the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.  (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Topic:  "Desertification": Environmental Science 7th Ed. CNN Ed (2:45)
Desertification is a process that is affecting at least 14% of the agricultural lands in Cuba. Currently, 11 out of 14 of Cuba’s provinces show signs of soil degradation, which could result in desertification. To prevent desertification, the Cuban government developed several community programs that promote education to individuals to protect the lands before the problem becomes irreversible. The programs include recovering land using soil-friendly techniques, planting trees, producing organic fertilizers, and developing forestry farms to protect river water.  (Student worksheet provided on CD)

Articles in "Taking Sides"

"Is Genetic Engineering an Environmentally Sound Way to Increase Food Production?" Easton, Thomas. Taking Sides: Environmental Issues, eleventh edition.

Issue Summary:

"Food Fight".  Rocky Mountain News.  Vincent Carroll, Ed. 
Genetically modifying foods has been the new undertaking of the century.  This is sometimes done to combat the imperfect world of famine, drought, etc. Biotechnology gives farmers the option of producing crops that require far less pesticide and are overall more efficient to raise.   Golden rice is already helping million of children in the Third World from going blind due to Vitamin A deficiency.  The USDA protects consumers by requiring years of field studies before allowing these bioengineered crops to be marketed.  Communication and knowledge is the way that biotechnology will continue to benefit people around the world.