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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Biotechnology Education in Hawaii: Today's Youth for Tomorrow's Decision Makers

Location: Tropical Plant Genetic Resources and Disease Research

Project Number: 2040-21000-015-10
Project Type: Specific Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 01, 2013
End Date: Jul 31, 2018

Objective:
Provide marketing organizations, growers and associated industries with current information on agricultural biotechnology. This project will concentrate on working with different communities in Hawaii to identify levels of knowledge and understanding, fears and concerns related to genetically engineered (GE) food production, as well as developing educational programs which will address specific and locally relevant (Hawaiian) issues related to this problem. Special emphasis will be given to K-12 Education. Improved understanding of agricultural biotechnology issues by growers, marketers, legislators and consumers. This project will continue to allow interaction among these major role players in the area of agricultural biotechnology. Increase student and parents understanding of genetics, applications of genetics in agriculture, and agricultural biotechnology (Gene-ius Day program). Reach approximately 4,400 students and parents each year (Gene-ius Day program). The Saturday Gene-ius workshop will bring 2,400 students and their parents annually (1,400 Oahu and 1,000 Kauai) onto the University of Hawaii (UH) campuses for 2.5 hours per session, to learn about DNA and its implications in genetics, agriculture, and forensic sciences. Develop Hawaii-based agricultural biotechnology workshops for use in K-12 education (Gene-ius Day program). This grant will allow approximately 2,000 (per academic year) school age students continue to learn about food production and introductory genetics while older students learn about biotechnology specifically those issues surrounding the technology. Increasing these activities would indeed be beneficial, and this grant will provide the opportunity to work with a greater number of public schools, both at the elementary and senior level. Develop lesson plans for all the workshops (Gene-ius Day program) so they can easily be adopted by other programs on the mainland.

Approach:
Farmers are under pressure to increase production, control costs, and reduce the environmental impact of agriculture. Challenges they face include extreme weather such as drought and flooding, insects that literally eat the profits and diseases such as viruses and fungi, and weeds that can take over fields. Hawaii is the state with the highest number of experimental permits for biotech food development; as well as a state with the first developed and adopted GE fruit tree (papaya). As Hawaii’s third largest industry, agriculture is a key contributor to our state economy. At the same time, Hawaii has become a target of campaigns to discredit GE food development. As with any form of new technology transfer, there is potential for misunderstanding, misuse, fear, overconfidence or over-dependence. Outreach options suited to each target group will be used; to include formal presentations, printed materials, electronic materials, small-group discussions, video, and television presentations. Certain groups will be provided with opportunity to obtain hands-on training in certain aspects of biotechnology, such as basic procedures like DNA extraction, sequencing and food testing. Interaction with marketing organizations: Providing marketing organizations with appropriate information is central to this program. This will be achieved by first identifying marketers that require information on biotech crops. Once identified, their level of understanding of the issues will be determined through surveys. The outcomes of these surveys will be used to develop educational materials suited to the needs of different marketers. Grower/Industry Involvement/Contact and interaction with industry and activists: It is important to maintain a balanced and educated perspective on developments in agricultural biotechnology, in both the commercial sector and among the groups opposed to these developments. We have developed working relationships with Monsanto, Pioneer and the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center (HARC), as well as opponent groups, such as GMO Free Hawaii, on each island. Gene-ius Day program (K-12 students/parents’ education): It is important to provide youths and parents with an appropriate exposure to biotechnology in agriculture because it often assists in forming opinions among their parents. It will also help them make informed decision about biotechnology as adults. Now in its fifth year, the Gene-ius Day program teaches basic biological concepts and teaches that farmers and scientists work together to grow the food we eat. Presentations and field trips to UH Manoa enhance science education in participating schools and increase student awareness of science-based careers. We will team up with Hawaii 4-H to offer a series of Saturday hands-on science workshops at the Kauai Community College (KCC) and the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) campuses. The Saturday Gene-ius workshop will be a modified version of my original Gene-ius Day (http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/geneius-day/) field trip that we currently offer for elementary schools.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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