Credits: 3

Terms Offered: Spring

Instructor: Mary Ann Hansen, John G. Jelesko

Prerequisites: One semester of a college level biology course.


This course explores how and why humans have manipulated plant genomes from prehistory through the current genomic era by examining the scientific, cultural, historical, and legal aspects of plant gene management in both conventional and transgenic crops. Topics include the key historical events in the domestication of crops from the wild, major plant disease epidemics that have influenced the development of modern varieties, plant breeding and the importance of the "green revolution," and current issues in genetic engineering of food crops. Students will learn basic scientific concepts of plant disease, plant breeding, and genetic engineering. They will also gain a foundation for making informed decisions about current controversial issues regarding genetically modified crops.

Lecture Topics:

  • Chemical Ecology (Jelesko)
  • Natural Ecology of Plant-Pathogen Interactions (Hansen)
  • Traits under Selection (Jelesko)
  • History of Genetics (Jelesko)
  • Mendelian Genetics (Jelesko)
  • Tomato Domestication (Jelesko)
  • Potato Origins and Late Blight (Hansen)
  • Nightshades and Tobacco History (Jelesko)
  • TMV and Gene-for-Gene Resistance (Hansen)
  • Comparative Breeding Strategies (Jelesko)
  • Green Revolution (Jelesko)
  • Corn Origins and Domestication (Jelesko)
  • Case Study Exercise on Concepts of Green Revolution (Hansen)
  • Southern Corn Leaf Blight (Hansen)
  • Crown Gall (Hansen)
  • Transgenic Technologies (Hansen)
  • Flavr Savr Tomato (Hansen)
  • Golden Rice (Hansen)
  • Bt Corn (Jelesko)
  • Coat Protein-Mediated Resistance (Hansen)
  • Case Study Exercise on Roundup Ready Crops: "The Case of the Runaway Canola Gene" (Hansen)
  • Biofuels (Jelesko)
  • Patenting the Gene: Intellectual Property (Jelesko)
  • Maintaining Global Genetic Resources (Hansen)


Grades: Final course grades will be based on two midterm exams (25% each), one final exam (25%), one group project (25%), and optional bonus points. Bonus points may be earned for small in-class exercises throughout the semester. The final bonus point total may be used to replace the lowest midterm exam score if the bonus point total is higher than the lowest midterm score. Bonus point totals may NOT be used to replace the final exam or group project grades. Letter grades will be assigned on a +/- system.

Group Project: Students will work in groups of up to four to complete a project on a crop of their choice in any of several optional formats (Powerpoint presentation, video, skit, etc.). Each group will propose a solution to an agricultural problem of the crop of their choice and make a final presentation to convince a funding agency (consisting of instructors Hansen and Jelesko) to fund their project.