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McREL Standards Activity

Not So Super Superbugs

Purpose:As a result of this activity, students will demonstrate an understanding of the process and outcomes of natural selection. In addition students will demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between technology, society and the individual.
Related Standard & Benchmarks:
 Standard 7.Understands biological evolution and the diversity of life
   Level IV [Grade 9-12]
   Benchmark 2. Understands the concept of natural selection (e.g., when an environment changes, some inherited characteristics become more or less advantageous or neutral, and chance alone can result in characteristics having no survival or reproductive value; this process results in organisms that are well suited for survival in particular environments)
 Standard 3.Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual
   Level IV [Grade 9-12]
   Benchmark 3. Knows that alternatives, risks, costs, and benefits must be considered when deciding on proposals to introduce new technologies or to curtail existing ones (e.g., Are there alternative ways to achieve the same ends? Who benefits and who suffers? What are the financial and social costs and who bears them? How serious are the risks and who is in jeopardy? What resources will be needed and where will they come from?)
Student Product:Persuasive speech
Material & Resources:These Internet sites contains further information regarding the possible consequences of/benefits of administering antibiotics to livestock:,;jsessionid=HMGGMGOAKKMA?advsearch=antibiotics+livestock&searchtype=all,,
Teacher's Note:No supplementary notes for this activity.
Consumer groups are urging the FDA to ban the administration of antibiotics to livestock. Farmers are currently using these antibiotics to produce healthier, larger livestock; however, some bacteria that the antibiotics are designed to kill are evolving into "superbugs" that have a resistance to the antibiotics. Assume the role of either a representative of a consumer group or a farmer who uses these antibiotics. Prepare a persuasive speech to present to the FDA defending your viewpoint. The FDA is not quite clear on how these "superbugs" came to exist, so begin your speech by explaining how the "superbugs" evolved and reproduced in the environmental conditions created by the farmers. If you side with the consumer groups, identify the risks of continuing to use antibiotic technology in the raising of livestock, as well as the financial and social costs and who bears them. If you assume the role of the farmer, consider the risks and costs (social and financial) of discontinuing the use of the antibiotics. After all speeches have been given, students should individually write a summary of all the arguments on each side and a possible solution.