Extended Learning Activity 1 Genetically modified foods (gm foods) – a good solution to be considered?



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Extended Learning Activity 1



Genetically modified foods (GM foods) – a good solution to be considered?

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Historical context:

While some scientists found that DNAs can be transferred from one organism to another in as early as 1946, the first transgenic plant was produced in 1983. Since then, scientists have undertaken numerous researches in food genetic engineering. The early 1990s witnessed several breakthroughs in producing food crops resistant to pests and diseases, delay ripening process or to increase yields. Since then, genetically modified food (GM food) has been seen as one the major solutions to the limited global supply of food, despite the public health worries it might bring to mankind.



Objectives:

After this learning activity, students should be able to:



  • cite the motives of adopting (and not adopting) genetically modified food as a solution to the global problem of food shortage, and

  • point out whether it is possible for the United Nations to help reach a satisfactory solution of problems of food shortage.

When to use this learning activity:

  • After teaching the role of the United Nations in solving problems of population and resources

  • Before assessing the achievements and limitations of the United Nations’ efforts

How to use this learning activity:

  1. Students divide themselves into groups of 4, taking up the following roles and goals respectively:

  • A: Head of the government of developing country (Country X) suffering from serious food shortage

  • B: Chief Executive Officer of an international enterprise producing and selling GM food

  • C: Director-General of the World Health Organization of the United Nations

  • D: Legal representative of food shortage victims in Country X

  1. Students read Sources D and E. Each student has to define one’s own major concern(s), objective(s), task(s), and feasible strategy/strategies with reference to Sources D and E and using one’s own knowledge.

  2. 1st round of discussion (7 minutes): Every discussion group should consist of roles A, B, C and D. Every member strives to maximize one’s own grip on the major concern(s), objective(s), etc. set in Step 2 above, and avoid/minimize the compromise of one’s own principles.

  3. 2nd round of discussion (7 minutes): Students form “expert groups”, i.e. Groups A, B, C and D. Every expert group examines:

  • The strategies used to securing a firm grip on one’s role-related principles

  • The difficulties met in the course of negotiation

  • Possible tactics that could guarantee a higher chance of securing established principles and avoiding/minimizing compromises with other parties

  • Whether it is possible to reach a win-win situation for all parties

  1. 3rd round of discussion (7 minutes): Students go back to their original groups of four, and re-negotiate with the new tactics discussed in the expert groups.

  2. After all 3 rounds of discussion, the teacher invites some students to share to the whole class on the following questions:

  • What are the major reasons for adopting (and not adopting) GM food as a solution to problems of food shortage?

  • What have been the major obstacles that hindered the reaching of a win-win situation for all?

  • Is it possible for the United Nations to help solve the problem of food shortage satisfactorily?



SOURCE I

The following is extracted from an article on “Genetically Modified Foods” published in April 2000.




Malnutrition is common in third world countries where impoverished peoples rely on a single crop such as rice for the main staple of their diet. However, rice does not contain adequate amounts of all necessary nutrients to prevent malnutrition. If rice could be genetically engineered to contain additional vitamins and minerals, nutrient deficiencies could be alleviated. For example, blindness due to vitamin A deficiency is a common problem in third world countries.

Source: “Genetically Modified Food – Harmful or Helpful? – ProQuest website” (http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/gmfood/overview.php) (Accessed on 11 August 2014)


SOURCE J

The following is adapted from an article about NGO Cautions Country on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).




Speaking exclusively to East African Business Week in Dar es Salaam last week, Mr. Elias Mtinda, the Agriculture and Food Security Advisor of the ActionAid Tanzania, said there is a need for the government to make its own decision without being influenced by bigger companies on decisions regarding the approval of the use of GMO food products.

Source: “Tanzania: NGO Cautions Country on GMOs – AllAfrica website” (http://allafrica.com/stories/201204301291.html) (Accessed on 11 August 2014).
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Extended Learning Activity 2



Greenpeace’s struggle against genetically modified (GM) food

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Historical context:

Greenpeace was set up by a few environmental activists in 1971 when they set sail from Vancouver, Canada to bear witness to some American underground nuclear testing in Alaska, which was home to many wildlife species. Throughout the past 4 decades, Greenpeace has always put environmental campaigns as its first priority. With its headquarters in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Greenpeace has been widely known for its numerous actions against entrepreneurial and government behaviour that run against the Greenpeace ideals. These actions are sometimes controversial and regarded as violent.



Objectives:

After this learning activity, students should be able to:



  • understand the environmental concerns of Greenpeace, and

  • cite the factors that may hinder international attempts at solving problems of food shortage

When to use this learning activity:

  • After teaching the international cooperation led by the United Nations attempting to solve food shortage problems

  • Before assessing the achievements and limitations of international attempts at solving food shortage problems

How to use this learning activity:

  1. Students form themselves into pairs or groups of three, and read Sources K and L.

  2. Students assume the role of the spokesperson of Greenpeace. Discuss, prepare and present a 8-minute speech for a press conference after the clash with CSIRO. The speech should address the following:

      1. Why is Greenpeace concerned about the GM wheat experiment of the CSIRO?

      2. Why does Greenpeace think it was necessary to clash with CSIRO?

      3. What does Greenpeace expect the United Nations to do so as to solve the global problem of food shortage effectively without resorting to GM food?

      4. Under what circumstances would Greenpeace agree to work with the UN and/or the CSIRO to solve the global problem of food shortage?

(Note: Teachers may assign students to do some preliminary research on the Internet regarding the rationale and principles of Greenpeace, the UN’s policies on GM food, other international NGOs’ responses to the same issue, etc.)


  1. An alternative to the above arrangement is that some students assume the role of journalists and raise queries to the Greenpeace spokesperson concerning Greenpeace’s willingness to cooperation with other international NGOs and the UN in solving the food shortage problem.



SOURCE K

The following is an account of Greenpeace’s conflict with an Australian science agency.




In the early hours of a Wednesday morning two weeks ago, three Greenpeace activists made their way past the perimeter fence at Ginninderra Experiment Station in Canberra, Australia, and destroyed a crop of GM wheat using weed strimmers. A spokeswoman for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the national science agency which runs the station, said the damage was estimated to run A$300,000. In a statement released by Greenpeace Australia Pacific, activist Laura Kelly stated that “We had no choice but to take action to bring an end to this experiment”.

Source: “What’s next Greenpeace, burning books? – Scienceblogs website” (http://scienceblogs.com/sciencepunk/2011/07/28/in-the-early-hours-of/) (Accessed on 12 August 2014).

SOURCE L

The following is another account of Greenpeace concerning its clash with the above agency.




Greenpeace activists have taken non-violent direct action to stop Australia’s environment and food supply from being contaminated by genetically modified wheat. The GM wheat that has been released across Australia has not been proven safe. It hasn’t been tested for toxic and allergic effects. All evidence shows that GM wheat cannot be contained; it will contaminate our food supply and the environment.

Source: “Q & A on GM Wheat trial action – Greenpeace website” (http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/Food/resources/FAQs/Q--A-on-GM-Wheat-trial-action/) (Accessed on 12 August 2014)
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Extended Learning Activity 3



Developed countries’ financial aid for developing countries

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Historical context:

Since the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, a number of UN agencies and funds have been set up to provide financial and material aid to developing and underdeveloped countries suffering from the problem of poverty. Such UN agencies include the International Monetary Fund (IMF, 1945) and the World Bank (1945), the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, 1945), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF, 1946), the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP, 1961), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA, 1969), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD, 1977). These agencies provide financial aid to countries in need on either ad hoc or regular basis. The generous but sometimes misused funds provided by the UN have been subject to public concern and criticism.



Objectives:

After this learning activity, students should be able to:



  • cite the roles and various tasks of the UN in the relief of global poverty problems, and

  • identify difficulties and challenges met by the UN in doing so

When to use this learning activity:

  • After teaching the global pattern of poverty problems

  • Before proceeding to the roles played by the UN in solving these problems

How to use this learning activity:

  1. Students, either in groups or in pairs, read Sources M and N.

  2. Students identify the various problems reflected in the Sources regarding the distribution of relief funds for countries suffering from poverty.

  3. From the website of the United Nations, each group of students selects a particular UN agency (e.g. the UN World Food Programme) whose work is related to the problem of poverty.

  4. Students assume the role of the financial director of the United Nations in charge of providing financial aids to developing countries with significant poverty problems. Students have to write a proposal on the new allocation of poverty relief funds. When writing the proposal, students have to consider the following questions:

  1. How should raised funds meet the financial needs of countries troubled by poverty?

  2. How should various relief-related tasks be prioritized?

  3. How should the UN supervise and ensure the proper use of funds?

  4. What difficulties and challenges regarding the actual relief of poverty problems can be foreseen?

  5. What further remedies can be pursued in such cases?

SOURCE M

The following is a cartoon appeared in a Tanzanian newspaper in July 2006.


Source: Creative Commons license (http://www.pambazuka.net/images/articles/500/hakima_abbas/gado_aid_cow.jpg (Accessed on 12 August 2014).

SOURCE N

The following is a Kenyan cartoon.


Source: Creative Commons license http://www.pambazuka.net/images/articles/500/hakima_abbas/gado_ngo_cashcow.jpg (Accessed on 12 August 2014).

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Extended Learning Activity 4



Médecins Sans Frontières

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Historical context:

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), i.e. Doctors Without Borders, was set up in France in 1971 by 13 founding doctors and journalists, and about 300 volunteers. MSF's core belief is that people of all genders, races, religions, creeds and political affiliations should be entitled to healthcare beyond any kind of boundary. Its earliest missions were sent to Nicaragua (1972), Honduras (1974) and Cambodia (1975). Since 1980, MSF has opened 28 national offices. In 1999, MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its medical services. Nowadays, it employs over 30,000 people worldwide. Ever since its beginning, it has treated more than 100 million patients.



Objectives:

After this learning activity, students should be able to:



  • identify MSF’s pledge to maintain its financial and operational independence; and

  • assess to what extent MSF was truly an independent non-governmental organization (NGO).

When to use this learning activity

  • After giving students an overview of international NGOs involved in global development of medicine and public health;

  • Before proceeding to UN agencies’ involvement in global development of science and technology

How to use this learning activity:

1. Students form themselves into groups of 4 and read Sources O and P.

2. 1st round of discussion:

What kind of "independence" does the MSF value? Why does MSF see “independence” as an important basis of its work?

Ans.: It refers to financial and operational independence. It is important because the MSF has to deliver medical help to all races and social groups without any bias or favouritism, thus building its trustworthiness and authority in its service domain.


  1. Based on Sources O and P, students browse the corporate information of the MSF on its website (http://www.msf.org.hk), and collect evidence for/against the following statements:

  • “MSF's financial dependence on donations and operational dependence on volunteers' help makes it not fully independent.”

  • “MSF has been successful in operating its medical services up to 2000.”

  • “MSF's medical work among the countries in need has been sufficient and satisfactory.”



Source O

The following text is adapted from the website of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders, MSF).




To uphold MSF’s independence so that we can be seen to offer assistance to populations in danger without discrimination and irrespective of race, religion, sex, creed or political affiliations, the great majority of MSF's funding for projects comes from donations from the public. MSF ensures that 80% or more of all funds raised are used for supporting relief operations. The rest goes towards covering administration and fundraising expenses. In 2011, 89% of the funds raised by MSF-HK were used to support relief operations in the frontline.

Source: "How we use donations - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) website" (http://www.msf-seasia.org/5508) (Accessed on 13 August 2014)
Source P

The following text is adapted from the website of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders, MSF).




One-off Donation

Medical needs are great, and MSF has a unique opportunity to make a difference. With your support, we can continue to independently and impartially provide emergency medical assistance to people affected by armed conflict and natural disasters, and to marginalised people who find themselves excluded from healthcare.

Please support MSF now! With just a little, we can save more lives.


Source: "One-off donation - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) website" (https://ssl.msf.hk/donate/en/oneoff) (Accessed on 13 August 2014).
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Extended Learning Activity 5



Greenpeace’s mission on environmental protection

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Historical context:

Before WWII, the world had adopted no restriction to the access of the seas. In 1945, American President Harry Truman challenged this principle by extending American jurisdiction over all natural resources on the continental shelf of the U.S. From 1946 onwards, countries, such as Argentina, Chile, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia followed suit. Over the decades, oceanic activities such as offshore oil extraction and deep-water fishing have repeatedly caused international concerns. In 1973, the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea was convened, leading to the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982 and its eventual coming into effect in 1994. The UNCLOS recognized the oceans as a global resource for which all countries share responsibility.



Objectives:

After this learning activity, students should be able to:



  • cite examples on how human activities have threatened the marine environment, and

  • identify how the marine environment can be safeguarded by the United Nations

When to use this learning activity:

  • After introducing different kinds of environmental problems

  • Before teaching how the United Nations has responded to environmental problems

How to use this learning activity:

  1. Students get into groups of 4, and read Source Q to find out the following information:

      1. Which international treaty was signed to safeguard the marine environment?

Ans.: The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

      1. When did this treaty enter into force?

Ans.: In the year 1994.

      1. What was the main point of this treaty?

Ans.: It recognized the oceans as a truly global resource, and all nations have a shared responsibility for its maintenance.

      1. How was the general condition of the marine environment up to 2004?

Ans.: The oceans are severely threatened by human activities such as overfishing and pollution. The ocean ecosystems, fish populations and deep-sea biodiversity might disappear in the future.

  1. With the help of computers/tablets connected to the Internet, students search a particular event during the period 1994-2000 related to the threatening/deterioration of the marine environment due to human activities. Students skim through the event and narrate that event briefly to the whole class.

  2. As the second round of information search, students look for information concerning how the United Nations responded to / dealt with that particular event, i.e. press conference, public speech, reports, meetings, sanctions, etc. Students may also check whether the UN made use of the UNCLOS when responding to / dealing with those events, and explain why the UN did / did not do so.



SOURCE Q

The following is an extract from a Greenpeace speech entitled ‘Statement to the United Nations General Assembly: On Behalf of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.’




Today (November 16th, 2004) marks the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This groundbreaking treaty took a major step towards international recognition of our oceans as a truly global resource, for which all nations have a shared responsibility. Ten years on, however, our oceans are in crisis, threatened by human activities such as overfishing, pollution and climate change. It is abundantly clear that unless States deal comprehensively with the current threats to marine life, we will face a future devoid of vibrant ocean ecosystems, thriving fish populations and deep-sea biodiversity.

Source: "Statement to the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition - Save the High Seas website" (http://www.savethehighseas.org/publicdocs/UNGA_GP_short.pdf) (Accessed on 13 August 2014)


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