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Food or Famine, 2002: The Debate over Genetically Modified Crops in Southern Africa

by David E. Henderson

Genetically Modified Foods or Starvation?

This game is set in an African conference at which nations facing famine are confronted with the choice between accepting genetically modified (GM) corn from the USA and the risk that they will not be able to export their agricultural products to the EU as a result, or allowing people to starve. Students learn about GM foods, the controversies over their safety, both for health reasons and ecological reasons. The subtext for the controversy in this game is a trade war between the USA and the EU over GM foods. The application of genetic engineering to food products (GM food) has been highly controversial. The fact that the products brought to the market have primarily focused narrowly on pesticide and herbicide issues and have been aggressively marketed by Monsanto and a few other companies has also led to public skepticism. At the time of this game in 2002, the US government is actively supporting the use of GM technology around the world. At the same time, the European Union (EU) had introduced a total ban on GM products and crops that extends to imports of any GM Food product. The conflict between the US and the EU played out in Africa during a famine that made the safety of GM crops a life or death decision for the African leaders involved.

This is a Level 3 game that is still under development but has been approved by the Reacting Editorial Board (REB) for general use. A detailed explanation of the editorial process and game levels can be found on our REB Page.

Available in French Translation



Economics and Economic History; History of Medicine and Health; History of Science and Technology; International Relations; Political Science and Government; STEM

21st Century; Modern History

In a Few Words
US vs. EU Conflict

International, Africa

Themes and Issues  

Player Interactions 
Factional, Competitive

Sample Class Titles

African History since 1800; Global Public Health; Science, Policy and Biology

Level 3 game (what's that mean?)

Rolling Dice, Differentiated Voting

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is minimally chaotic and demanding on the instructor

Primary Source Highlights
Summaries of technical articles on GM foods

Notable Roles

James T. Morris, William Brands, Stéphane Lemarié

Using the Game

Class Time  
For this game, 2 setup sessions and 2 to 3 game sessions are recommended.

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive.  Food or Famine: Feeding Africa may pair well with:


You can adjust the assignments to fit the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing, science writing, and journalism. Not all roles are required to give formal speeches.

Class Size and Scalability
This game is recommended for classes with 6-29 students.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

Please Fill out the Permissions Request Form Before Using Food or Famine in Your Class!


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. Members can download the Gamebook, and provide it to students for free or at cost.


Instructor's Manual and Role Sheets

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments.

Additional Materials

Additional materials for this game include a setup PowerPoint, EU files, student files, character name placards, a post-mortem article, and a post-mortem PowerPoint.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

All Materials

Download All French Materials

Translation of Version 4.6. Translated 2021. Zipped Word documents. 

This includes the Student Gamebook, Role Sheets, and Ancillary Materials (quiz and handouts). All materials were translated into French by Vincent Thibeault.


David E. Henderson

David E. Henderson is Professor Emeritus at Trinity College (Connecticut). He is the author of nine Reacting game modules on science, public policy, and religion.

Reacting and Related Titles


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


Food Pyramid Fight
Food Fight: Challenging the USDA Food Pyramid, 1991

Diet and Killer Diseases
Diet and Killer Diseases: The McGovern Committee Hearings, 1977

North Korea Aid
The North Korean Hunger Games: Famine, Rogue Regimes and the Ethics of Aid, 1995-1998


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