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Unit information: Agricultural Biotechnology in 2020/21

Unit name Agricultural Biotechnology
Unit code BIOL31129
Credit points 10
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Foster
Open unit status Not open

None, but we recommend that students should normally have taken BIOL20008 Plant Disease.



School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


Agriculture has gone through some major changes through the history of man, and it is said that one of the biggest revolutions is currently underway with the application of biotechnology to crop production. However, as well as attracting attention because of the claimed benefits of this technology, this area of science has also attracted some of the greatest media attention and public interest of any branch of science in recent years. This unit will cover a number of specific examples of the application of biotechnology in agriculture such as, the production of novel products in plants (for example industrial and pharmaceutical proteins), the generation of transgenic plants resistant to pathogen attack, and improved yield and quality of crops. The unit will try and explain why biotechnology is seen to be needed in agriculture, as well as discussing some of the ethical and biosafety issues which surround this area of science.


To cover a number of specific examples of the application of biotechnology in agriculture.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of the unit, students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the scientific mechanisms of plant breeding, molecular plant pathology and other areas of molecular biology/genetic engineering as well as an awareness of the ethical/moral debate.

Teaching details

Lectures, directed reading, research and/or problem-solving activities; and independent study.

Assessment Details

Summative written assessment, with one essay question to be selected from a choice of two.

Reading and References

Most of the lecture material for the specific subjects considered in this Unit is taken from research papers and is not covered in any one textbook. You will receive a list of references at the start of teaching for this unit.

As background to this Unit, you will find a range of general textbooks in the library. Amongst these, you will find a good coverage of basic information in Plant Biotechnology by Slater et al., as a main primrary text.