ERIC Identifier: ED402152
Publication Date: 1996-09-00
Author: Lee, Thomas
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science
Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.
Biotechnology Education and the Internet. ERIC Digest.
The world of modern biotechnology is based on recent developments in
molecular biology, especially those in genetic engineering. Organisms from
bacteria to cows are being genetically modified to produce pharmaceuticals and
foods. Also, new methods of disease gene isolation, analysis, and detection, as
well as gene therapy, promise to revolutionize medicine. With these changes come
controversies as well. There are, for example, concerns about genetic privacy,
the effects of transgenic organisms on other organisms and the environment, and
How can teachers and students keep up with what is happening in
biotechnology? Biotechnology is a relatively new and rapidly advancing field of
study, so there are few traditional sources of information and activities. The
National Association has produced A Sourcebook of Biotechnology Activities
(Rasmussen & Matheson, 1990), and the Ohio Academy of Science has produced
The Ohio Science Workbook: Biotechnology (Reames, 1993). To encourage an
international exchange of ideas regarding biotechnology education, the UNESCO
Science and Technology Programme has published a document on Teaching
Biotechnology in Schools (McInerney, 1990) that provide information on both the
basic principles of biotechnology as well as ethical and social considerations.
Other good sources of information and ideas can be found on the Internet,
using the World Wide Web and other services. The resources presented here relate
to topics that have been identified (Wells, 1994) as the main areas of study in
biotechnology: bioprocessing, foundations, genetic engineering, agriculture,
biochemistry, medicine, environment, and bioehtics. Resources for other topics,
such as aquaculture, DNA fingerprinting, and biotechnology education have been
listed by Paolella (1991).
WEB GUIDES AND TOOLS
There are several major starting
points for finding information on the Web. On-line subject guides list topics
(like biotechnology) alphabetically, and offer direct links to resources. Try
Yahoo at http://www.yahoo.com, EINet Galaxy at
http://galaxy.einet.net/galaxy.html, or the incredible WWW Virtual Library at
If you want to use a system that will search for a topic for you throughout
the Internet, use one of the many Web search tools. Yahoo, listed above, will
perform searches, as will Lycos at http://www.lycos.com, Alta Vista at
http://www. altavista.digital.com, or Infoseek Guide at
http://guide.infoseek.com. If you prefer one-stop shopping, use
and more. Warning, a recent search for the term "biotechnology" on Lycos yielded
5400 sites. You might want to be more specific!
MAJOR STARTING POINTS
There are other ways to find
biotechnology-related information. Access Excellence, at http://www.gene.com/ae%20
is a forum for on-line communication among high school biology teachers, with a
focus on biotechnology. One can exchange messages, post notices, and obtain
teaching activities. While at Access Excellence, look under "Resource Center." Carolina Biological Supply posts its newsletter, Carolina Tips, there.
Other rich sources include http://golgi.harvard.edu/biopages.html, the
Biotechnology Information Center (BIC) at the National Agricultural Library at
http://www.inform.umd.edu/EdRes/Topic/AgrEnv/Biotech, and the Biotechnology
Public Education Program site residing at
Directory of Biotechnology Resources at http://biotech.chem.indiana.edu and the
Biotechnology Industry Organization's gateway to biotechnology resources at
Agriculture, which includes
animals as well as crops, is an area filled with promise and also controversy
over biotechnological developments. The Global Agricultural Biotechnology
Association offers a very informative site at
http://www.lights.com/gaba/index.html.%20BIC, listed above, is a great source as
well. Go to http://www.bio.com/bc/bio/foodrep8.html%20for%20a%20listing%20of%20"Biotechnology Food Products on the Market," and much more. The U.S. Department
of Agriculture is on-line at http://www.usda.gov. A good way to keep up on the
latest news is to read the monthly News Report of the NBIAP, assessing the
biological impacts of agricultural biotechnology, at
There are lists to which one can subscribe,
and then receive (or post) e-mail notices. They are a valuable means of getting
updates, asking questions and sharing information. Subscribing is easy; just
send an e-mail to the list's address, (don't list a subject!) and put the
following message in the body: Subscribe (name of list) firstname lastname. Here
are some useful addresses.
* GENTECH supports discussions about genetic engineering through
* BIOPI-L networks teachers and science education specialists at
* BCEPP enables people working in education as well as public policy to
exchange ideas. Subscribe to: email@example.com.
* GENTALK addresses genetic engineering and bioethical issues at
Another biotechnology discussion group is BIOTECH, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, try HUM-MOLGEN BIOTECHNOLOGY, a mailing list which includes lots of
references to human genetics. Subscribe to HUM-MOLGEN at
email@example.com. After your name, add (BIOT).
Instead of sending you e-mail, the newsgroups
send their notices to whatever computer system you are using. You can then go to
your account and read these at your convenience. Talk with your systems operator
about how to sign on.
A complete list of all BIOSCI/bionet newsgroups is available through
http://www.bio.net. Here you can get not only the list, but you can actually
search through the newsgroups archives to find out what has already been said on
your subject. Bionet.announce and bionet.general are good ones to watch here.
The sci.bio newsgroups include the useful sci.bio.technology.
BOOKS, JOURNALS, AND PERIODICALS
Would you like to search
for books, browse through the table of contents of thousands of journals and
periodicals, or even search for a topic in the literature by keywords, authors,
or subjects? Simply go to the Library Resources Page,
biotechnology-related articles in popular magazines that can be located at the
Electronic Newsstand, http://www.enews.com.
Bioethical topics are popular subjects for
classroom discussion. To project more enlightenment than argument, you can keep
current by checking several Web sites. A major starting point is
http://fas-www.harvard.edu/~blom/bioethics.html. The Center for Biotechnology
Policy & Ethics is at http://www.tamu.edu/cbpe.%20
The AgBioethics Forum is on-line at
http://www.public.iastate.edu/~grad_college/bioethics. If you are interested in
any aspect of the ethical issues of human genome research as it relates to
biotechnology, go to http://www.nchgr.nih.gov, and you can search by keyword in
the archives of The National Center for Genome Research. The Center's home page
at http://www.ncgr.org offers several updated pages on ELSI, the committee
studying the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetic science.
A very interesting site is offered by the National Center for Biotechnology
Education (NCBE) in the United Kingdom. Within the vast array of data is a link
to the Biotechnology Debate Project. Here is a wealth of background information
on biotechnology topics. The Project also features a running debate and voting
on issues such as bST in milk (banned for now in Europe) and genetic screening.
Direct access to the Project is through
Biotechnology is a global
enterprise. You can check up on the the Canadian biotechnology scene with
page at http://www.aba.asn.au. The United Kingdom is covered at
http://www.reading.ac.uk/NCBE.%20In%20the%20U.S., if you would like a listing of many
biotechnology companies, along with their Internet addresses,try
REGULATION AND PATENTS
The biotechnology industry is
subject to legal regulation in many areas such as clinical testing, release of
genetically engineered organisms into the environment, or the introduction of
foreign genes into our foods. There is much public debate over the patenting of
life forms by biotechnologists. Legal and scientific information is offered at
http://biotechlaw.ari.net. At this site you also will find links leading to news
about gene patents and other biotechnology-related patents. You can also find
lots of good background reading at http://www.aphis.usda.gov.
To read selected full-text patents try
nology_Patents-full_text. For lots of news about releases and patents try
http://binas.unido.org/binas/binas.html, sponsored by the United Nations
International Development Organization (BINAS). Another major source treating
release of genetically modified organisms is
Relative to these issues, the Rural Advancement Foundation International
(RAFI) sponsors a Web site at http://www.charm.net/~rafi/rafihome.html. They are
interested in the "socially responsible development of technologies useful to
rural societies." Some topics at that site are "Impacts of New Transgenic Crops
on Southern Farmers", and "Companies Staking Claim to the Human Genome."
The various agencies of the Federal
Government, many of which regulate or sponsor biotechnology research and
development, publish an enormous amount of material on the Internet. Congress
has a Web site at http://thomas.loc.gov which will link you to a vast array of
government documents. Also try FedWorld at http://www.fedworld.gov. Another way
into the maze is http://www.inform.umd.edu/EdRes/Topic/AgrEnv/Biotech/Other_F%20
The Internet, while it does not replace the
traditional documents needed by students and educators (e.g. books, periodicals
or indexes), is an extraordinarily rich and constantly growing network of
information and communication. Biotechnology, in all of its many dimensions, is
expanding rapidly as well. Use e-mail, newsgroups, connect to the Web to stay
informed, and enter the fascinating world of modern science--as it happens.
McInerney, J. D. (Ed.). (1990). Teaching
biotechnology in schools. Science and technology education document series No.
39. Paris: UNESCO. [ED 352 250] Paolella, M.J. (1991). Biotechnology outlines
for classroom use. American Biology Teacher, 53(2), 98-101.
Rasmussen, A. M., & Matheson, R. H. (Eds.). (1990). A sourcebook of
biotechnolgy activities. Washington, DC: National Association of Biology
Teachers. [ED 361 177]
Reames, S. E. (1993). The Ohio science workbook: Biotechnology. Columbus:
Ohio Academy of Science. [ED 362 405]
Wells, J. G. (1994). Establishing a taxonomic structure for the study of
biotechnology in secondary school technology education. Journal of Technology