Relevancy and Engagement

New Plant Variety Safety Evaluation Project

Students will explore data collection for a hypothetical new potato variety to be evaluated for safety. They will also use a flow chart to evaluate whether the new variety is as safe and nutritious as comparable food or if additional information is needed to make a decision.

Time to Complete
1 hour
  1. This activity focuses on identifying characteristics of a new potato variety and using data to evaluate its safety. Potato traits that might be altered include: reduced susceptibility to bruising, non-browning, blight resistance, insect resistance, or lower asparagine content (a variable in acrylamide production levels when cooked). Engage students by asking:
    • Whose responsibility is it to collect data on a new plant variety?
    • What types of data are needed to evaluate whether a new variety is safe?
    • What else might you need to document?
    • What type of trait would you like to alter?
  2. Give each student one copy of the New Plant Variety Safety Evaluation Project worksheet that discusses potato varieties.
  3. Watch:
  4. Now have students consider the process of developing and evaluating a new potato trait as they watch the next two videos:
  5. Refer students back to their worksheet and have them choose a potato trait to alter.
  6. Read New Plant Variety Regulatory Information and highlight the important points that should be considered for a new plant variety. 
  7. Complete the New Plant Variety Safety Evaluation Project worksheet using Internet resources and the Credible Source Guide.
  8. Use the Safety Evaluation Process for New Plant Varieties flow chart to determine whether your new variety would be as safe and nutritious as comparable food or if additional information would be needed to decide.
  9. Review with the following questions:
    • Whose role is it to collect safety evaluation data? The plant developer or breeder must keep detailed records and collect DNA and protein sequence data for safety evaluation. The developers and FDA reviewers examine and evaluate this data as part of the safety evaluation process.
    • What are some key characteristics of a new GE plant variety that must be evaluated for safety? New GE varieties must be evaluated for potential toxicity, allergenicity, and nutritional values.


During the research and development of new plant varieties, including varieties developed by modern methods of genetic modification, scientists collect, share, and evaluate data to assess the safety of food derived from the new varieties. FDA and non-FDA scientists both have critical roles in this process.

FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition

This activity is part of the Science and Our Food Supply: Exploring Food Agriculture and Biotechnology (2020) curriculumFind more classroom activities for middle and high school on the Matrix.

Lessons Associated with this Resource
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