A proper education is the premise for the progress we seek for green genetic engineering. This year our contribution is targeted at farmers and students, to cover two particulary important groups in the political decision making of green genetic engineering. Farmers are directly affected by the topic of GMO crop usage, while students form the very foundation of any future development in our society.


The OpenPlast project seeks to unlock the potential of synthetic biology in a variety of plants, but with a focus on crops with high agricultural utility and farming. Thus the feedback of the local farmers was of exceptional value, especially after the interview with the Hessian Ministry for Environmental Protection highlighted the importance of a closer connected work with the farmers.

The Minister herself pointed out that an aversion towards GMOs among the majority of German farmers is a primary factor in the current restrictions. Intrigued to understand the reasons behind this, we interviewed both conventional and ecological farmers. Rather than a fixed disapproval we received an impression of uncertainty about the topic of green genetic engineering. Not only issues about biosafety and containment, but also questions about the current legal situation were raised during the interview. Overall we came to the conclusion that farmers needed a better access to information about green genetic engineering with a directed focus on them as the target audience.

To establish content that could be distributed and reproduced we decided to create a comprehensive booklet. This “Infolet” was written based on the feedback we got during the interview with the farmers. With 26 pages in total it sums up the most important pointers one needs to know about genetic engineering and GMOs. Our “GVO Infolet” (GVO being the German equivalent to GMO) covers a timeline of the history of agriculture and GMOs in the beginning, the current legal situation, the usage of genetically modified plants, the already applied usage of modified crops, the risks that lie in planting genetically modified plants, methods introduced to prevent contamination to other fields and lastly the importance of transparent practices especially about a highly disputed topic like this.

Accessibility is the key word here, as our main goal was to make the booklet approachable to everyone, especially farmers in Germany. Subsequently, writing the booklet in German was only a natural decision. The farmers we interviewed, as well as the Hessian Farmers Association together with farmers we met at the local market in Marburg city have received a booklet. Hoping to reach German farmers beyond the vicinity of Marburg, we want to publish it online in the near future.

Click me to read the full Infolet!

The booklets have already shown a first success during our encounter with the farmers on the market where we distributed the Infolet. From both ecological and conventional market stalls we got a very positive response. Moreover, both of them equally initiated a conversation with legitimate interest about our project and GMOs.

For more Info about the Infolet:

Read more


Not only local farmers but also the younger section of society face a lack of information and education about GMO-related questions. Our discussion round with the children and youth parliament (KiJuPa) showed that most young citizens have a profound interest in genetic engineering and strive to form their opinion on the topic. At the same time, the discussions made us aware how necessary and yet still neglected education in this field is. We think that the best way to learn about genetic engineering is to practice synthetic biology.

But how can something be done experimentally on gene expression in the classroom that doesn't require an S1 lab or goes beyond the scope of a school budget? Cell-free systems are not only excellent for efficient research in the lab, but they also carry an important safety-related property: they contain no reproducible organisms and thus fall outside the classical paradigms of biocontainment.

Since our own Cell-free Systems were still under development, we had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with miniPCR bio™. Their product "BioBits®", a Cell-Free System based on E. coli cells is one of their many offerings for students and aspiring scientists.

With the intention for a pilot project, the plan was to test the Biobits Kits with two high school biology courses that were one grade level apart, in order to compare the extent to which prior knowledge is necessary for success.

Survey - Beginner Course
Survey - Advanced Course

Due to the simple execution of the experiments and the well-prepared learning material, the majority of the student groups, both in the younger and older courses (11th and 12th grade courses respectively), were able to perform the experiments successfully. Altogether, our impression was very positive. Since this project is dedicated to the students, we set up a survey in both courses at the end of the workshop.

The survey questioned whether or not the event was 1) informative and 2) enjoyable, with four possible answers from „Very much“ to „Not at all“. Here a small difference between the courses showed. While the more advanced course had an entirely positive response in both categories, the beginner course gave a bit more negative answer. With additional verbal feedback and our own impression we relate the slightly lower percentage of positive evaluations in the younger course to the fact that many basic skills were still missing, which required a more extensive introduction.

For more Info about our project with GASB:

Read more

We are glad that after agreeing to our concept GASB decided to equip 18 courses with kits and pipettes, as well as financing the pilot project which will last 6 months. In order to effectively communicate this offer to the teachers, we are networking with MINT-EC and VBIO, the national excellence network of schools with an outstanding mathematics, science and technology profile. Two particularly committed members of our iGEM team, Tamina Kirsch and Sara Gilles, will act as mediators and contacts to ensure the long-term establishment of BioBits in German schools even after the end of the 2021 project.

For more Info about the BioBits experiment:

Read more

As a conclusion, we are very confident about the implementation and future of BioBits in German schools. With the funding plan through GASB and the positive feedback from students, we see a real enrichment for the biology curriculum. Educating our youth is the foundation for the future. And that is what we are committed to.