School lunch Should my school regulate my lunch?

Essential Questions:


Wheat cropFor many years, the food industry has turned to science to help create plants and animals that are bigger and stronger. Bigger and stronger plants mean larger crops and often greater profit, because you can raise more food on the same plot of land. One way scientists have helped the farming and food industry is by creating what are referred to as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs for short. Another term you might find is GE, which stands for genetically engineered.There are many common foods including foods you may eat, such as plants like corn and squash, that are or contain GMOs. At this time, no genetically modified animals are approved for eating, however, in some places fish, chicken, beef, and other livestock can be exposed to GMOs by eating grains or feed that contain GMOs.

Advocates for GMOs note that GMOs are an important equation in the world-wide food chain as less land and labor may be necessary to result in larger crops, and more of them. Because they cost less to produce, GMO crops result in foods and ingredients that cost your family less at the grocery store. GMOs are also one strategy for helping poorer countries and regions to grow food that may be more nutritious and combat starvation. GMOs may also be bred so that are able to live even under harsh conditions and some need less pesticides during the growing process.

People who oppose GMOs note that bigger crops mean more profit, but only for a few people. Plants that grow bigger and require less land and materials need fewer farmers. The long-term effects of GMOs are unknown. Some GMOs have completely replaced or modified natural strains of plants. Some suggest that you can no longer find any corn or soy that is not a GMO, and soy is a popular ingredient in many foods you probably eat, whether you realize it or not. There is concern that some helpful insects and animals that thrive on the GMO plants may be harmed. The impact on human health is also not known but GMOs and some are concerned that it has led to an increase in allergies.

The Martinsville City Public School system is considering becoming a non-GMO zone and is considering whether it should pass policies that either prohibit or limit the percentage of foods that students can eat that contain GMOs. Should it or shouldn’t it? It might be hard to be a completely GMO-free zone, but the number and quantity of GMO-based foods can certainly be reduced. Just how much of the food you eat should contain GMOs? What percentage is enough? Too much? We want to know what you think!

Your Goal:

You have to provide advice to school and city leaders, including the school principals, and members of the central office, such as the school nutritionist, about whether the amount of foods containing GMOs should be limited in school lunches.


Does the school system have the right to limit what’s in your lunch? What if you bring your own lunch? Because there are strong arguments on both sides of this issue, it’s important you review the materials given below in the Document Library and make a choice. The materials are drawn from both sides of the GMO debate and you should determine whether all GMOs, some percentage, or no GMOs should be banned from school lunches.


Use these materials to create a product that conveys your position and provides support for it. You can use any materials available to you on the computers provided or using paper, posterboard, pencils, markers, or other tools. Whatever product you develop should be designed to convince Martinsville City Public Schools to follow your advice. What product is going to best convince school officials?


  1. First, review and analyze three of your favorite school lunches. Use this PDF file of menus from Martinsville City Public Schools and Documents C1 and C2, which contains approximate percentages of GMOs for different types of foods. This should give you some idea as to what proportion of your lunches may already contain GMOs.
  2. Second, create your product that expresses your decision. Be sure to support your position and present it in such a way that it persuades the audience to accept it.

Document Library: (Please note: these documents will open in a new window.)

  1. Documents A & B: Weighing the GMO arguments from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  1. Article FOR GMOs: Weighing the GMO arguments: For
  2. Article AGAINST GMOs: Weighing the GMO arguments: Against

  1. Document C1: How to Avoid Genetically Modified Food. Article by Robin Mather for the October/November 2012 issue of Mother Earth News:
  2. Document C2: Image of just the bar chart created by Barry T. Fitzgerald with approximate averages identifed. Download in Word.

  1. Document D: Benefits and Controversies from students at Benicia High School

  1. Document E: As Scientists Question New Rat Study, GMO Debate Rages On by Dan Charles for National Public Radio (September 20, 2012)


Document F
Document G
Some Food for Though from MonsantoCo
Are GMOs making Americans fat? Part one of a news story from RTAmerica (6:12)

Download the Scoring Rubric

Photo Credits (All images licensed under a Creactive Commons License):