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Activity 3.1.

2 Biological Engineering Solutions


for Food Insecurity
Introduction
In the previous activity, you learned about the contributing factors of food insecurity
and the impact it has in a particular region. You even thought about at least one
possible solution, which may not have involved biological engineering. There are
many solution that may involve other areas of engineering or even other areas of
study, such as civil engineering, politics, and sociology. In this activity you will
investigate some of the current capabilities that biological engineers have to alleviate
food insecurity.
Equipment
 Computer with Internet access
 Engineering notebook
 “Facilitating Conservation Farming Practices and Enhancing Environmental
Sustainability with Agricultural Biotechnology” handout
Procedure
1. Read pages 1–7 and 18–22 of the article “Facilitating Conservation Farming
Practices and Enhancing Environmental Sustainability with Agricultural
Biotechnology.”
o In your engineering notebook, record two insights from this reading that
you found interesting or impactful.
2. Watch the short video under the “Motivation” tab at
http://challengesinverticalfarming.org/ to learn more challenges and
possibilities within the realm of biological engineering. (you may have to use
Internet Explorer or Firefox browser to view)
o In your engineering notebook, record two insights from this video that you
found interesting or impactful.
3. The following graph summarizes the problem that the world faces in terms of
food production for a growing population.

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Environmental Sustainability Activity 3.1.2 Biological Engineering Solutions for Food Insecurity– Page 1
a. Explain what happens to the amount of farmland that is available as the
world’s population continues to grow.
b. How can biological engineers help with increasing yields of crops planted
on the land that is already available?
4. Investigate the following biological engineering solutions, each of which involves
genetically modifying organisms. Genetically modified organisms contain foreign
genes that were intentionally inserted to impart certain characteristics. This
should give you a clearer picture of what is possible through the use of genetic
modification as a method for solving various food-related problems. Take notes
on important information from these sources in your engineering notebook. Fill in
the benefits column of the table that follows as you learn what is possible through
genetic modification of organisms.

© 2015 Project Lead The Way, Inc.


Environmental Sustainability Activity 3.1.2 Biological Engineering Solutions for Food Insecurity– Page 2
Inserted Gene(s) Protein/Product Positive Effects Negative Information
Organism
Consequences
- Cry1Ab gene Bt Endotoxin http://learner.org/co
Corn,
- Cry1Ac gene urses/biology/textb
cotton
- Cry9A gene ook/gmo/index.html
- Psy (Phytoene Produces phytoene (28 min video)
Rice
synthase) gene which is used to
- Crtl (carotene produce lycopene, Corn 2:00
desaturase) gene which plants then Rice 9:40
synthesize to beta- Goat 21:05
carotene
- Human Antithrombin III Note: The viewer will
Goat find other important
antithrombin gene
information on genetic
inserted in the goat engineering throughout
- Beta casein gene the video.

Anthocyanin gene Anthocyanin http://www.bbc.com


Tomato
from Snap Dragons /news/science-
environment-
25889792
(3 min video)
EPSPS 2 gene from 5- Reading:
Soybeans
bacteria enolpuruvylshikimate- “Facilitating
3-phosphate synthase Conservation…”
enzyme (EPSPS) Pgs 1–7, 18–22
essential for plant
growth

© 2015 Project Lead The Way, Inc.


Environmental Sustainability Activity 3.1.2 Biological Engineering Solutions for Food Insecurity– Page 3
Genes to express E-1 endoglucanase Spartan Corn
Corn
cellulase and
hemicellulase

5. For each of the following challenges in growing enough food for our global community, describe two additional innovations
in agriculture that are being used or currently being researched to help solve the food shortage issue.
Innovation(s)
Challenge
Vertical farming (http://youtu.be/2nFQOkzEjxQ)

Space

Vertical farming, GMO—drought resistance

Water: conservation
and pollution

© 2015 Project Lead The Way, Inc.


Environmental Sustainability Activity 3.1.2 Biological Engineering Solutions for Food Insecurity– Page 4
Erosion Vertical farming

GMO—pest resistance
Yield

GMO—more protein in carb-rich crops


Nutritional Value

GMO—longer shelf life


Distribution

© 2015 Project Lead The Way, Inc.


Environmental Sustainability Activity 3.1.2 Biological Engineering Solutions for Food Insecurity– Page 5
6. After learning from the written and video resources and participating in the class
discussion on biological engineering solutions, you should have a better idea of
how biological engineering can be influential in solving food insecurity problems
around the world. Return to your groups from the last activity and come up with
one plausible solution to the food insecurity problem in your case study from
Activity 3.1.1.
a. Revisit the case study and identify one contributing factor to the problem
of food insecurity that could be solved using biological engineering.
b. Complete the first two steps of the engineering design process—Define
the Problem and Generate Concepts—to propose one solution that could
be further developed. At this time you may or may not know how you
could develop this into a workable solution, and that is alright. There is so
much more to learn in the area of biological and genetic engineering.
c. Document your work and ideas in your engineering notebook throughout
the process.
Conclusion
1. How might biological engineering also involve the integration of other fields of
engineering? Elaborate on at least two examples.
2. Explain at least one challenge you foresee associated with using biological
organisms to solve food insecurity problems.
3. What knowledge and skills might a bioengineer need in order to develop a
genetically modified organism?

© 2015 Project Lead The Way, Inc.


Environmental Sustainability Activity 3.1.2 Biological Engineering Solutions for Food Insecurity– Page 6