CATEGORY: VCE 3 & 4 Biology

Genetic Engineering

Course Access: Lifetime
Course Overview

This is a pre-course for Ecolinc’s onsite Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) program but can also be undertaken as a stand-alone course. It explores the structure of DNA and how it can be manipulated to create GMO. This involves the use of restriction enzymes to create recombinant DNA and more recent biotechnology using CRISPR-cas9. It also considers the biological, social and ethical implications of using biotechnology.


Humans have been genetically modifying their crops and livestock for tens of thousands of years through selective breeding of desirable traits. Selective breeding used characteristics that were already present in the gene pool. Since the 1970s however, we have been able to directly manipulate DNA other than by breeding or causing mutations by exposure to chemicals or radiation. The first GM crop, the Flavr Savr tomato, was produced in the USA in 1994 which was genetically modified (GM) to slow its ripening therefore delaying softening and rotting. In 2021, there are at least 80 different GM crops grown worldwide. In Australia in 2021, the only GM crops permitted to be grown commercially are varieties of cotton, canola, safflower and carnation. However, many GM products are permitted to be imported. There are also experimental field trials of GM banana, sugarcane, wheat , ryegrass, barley and mustard.

Year Level: 12

Prior Knowledge:

This program builds on a basic knowledge of DNA.

Course Connections:

Does this course link to other Ecolinc programs?

This course is recommended as post-learning for Ecolinc’s VCE Biology Unit 3 program:


Learning Intentions:

In this program, students will:

  • Look closely at the structure of DNA
  • Explore the function of restriction enzymes
  • Examine the process of creating recombinant DNA for protein production
  • Analyse CRISPR-cas9 and see how it may be used to create GM crops
  • Consider both positive and negative implications of genetic engineering

Estimated Duration: 45 minutes

VCE Area of Study:

Biology Unit 3: Outcome 1

  • The use of recombinant plasmids as vectors.
  • The use of genetically modified and transgenic organisms in agriculture to increase crop productivity and to provide resistance to disease.

Course Design: David Tait