HOT TOPIC: Genetics
Volume 3, Issue 38 - June 10, 2007

"Since Gregor Mendel first worked to understand the genetics of pea plants, the microscopic biological world as we understand it has changed. From understanding inherited personal traits to engineering new improved varieties of foods, life has benefited from our understanding of the basic building blocks of life.

Ten years ago the buzz was about the cloning of Dolly the sheep. What did it all mean? What needed to be considered ethically in cloning life? Where do we draw lines? What was science fiction for our grandparents was becoming reality for our children and our children’s children.

Since then, the possibilities for genetic engineering have broadened and deepened, but the fundamental questions still remain. Stem cell research offers promising potential to cure diseases that have been heretofore untouchable, but the ways in which stem cells are harvested is controversial. Genetically engineered foods offer bigger fruits and vegetables that are more resistant to disease, but the general public wants to be aware if and when they are offered such foods in supermarkets and restaurants. Forensic police work also continues to improve due to genetic breakthroughs, but it raises huge questions about when and how government agencies should be able to access and use genetic material in their work. Life is getting better, but it’s also getting a lot more complicated.

All this having been said, our students will inherit a brave new world where diseases need not be fatal and the world food supply can be increased to help meet the needs of peoples everywhere. With this knowledge, our study of genetics must expand in the classroom, covering not only the sciences but the social and ethical impact on our lives. The world is changing before our eyes; the answers are not easy and are continually modified as new information becomes available. Thankfully we have a communications technology that can manage constantly-changing information – the Internet.

And so here are the current best online resources on genetics, genetic engineering, mapping the human genome and the implications for all of this in the future. May this week’s offerings inform and educate both you and your students.”

©2007 Walter McKenzie

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