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GM lessons boost understanding

Onions that do not make you cry, rice that combats night blindness and bananas that contain a cholera vaccine.

These are just a few of the examples of biotechnology that students from Glamorgan university have been attempting to explain to 11 to 13-year-olds over the past year.

They have been teaching pupils about the complex subject of genetically modified food in a scheme devised by Professor Denis Murphy at the university's biotechnology unit.

"Teachers found they really couldn't teach something as complex as GM food.

They said they lacked the confidence," said Professor Murphy. "That's where we came in."

Last year along with research assistant Angela Todd he held classes at three schools in south Wales. The pair also held day-long sessions for 100 pupils at a time in a lecture theatre at the university.

"The kids were really interested. They really liked the classes and a public debate into the pros and cons had them asking questions," said Professor Murphy.

Surveys held before, immediately after and three months later, show that biology students have developed skills and improved comprehension of the subject.

The activities have also helped pupils to form opinions, stimulate interest in biology and have given teachers greater confidence in follow-up lessons.

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