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Every science requires a special language because every science has its own ideas.
~Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715-1780)

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Term Definition
agricultural commodity

rice commodity indexmundi.coman agricultural good traded on a commodity exchange, with a price determined by the global market as a whole. The sale and purchase of agricultural commodities is mostly carried out through futures contracts on exchanges that standardize quantity and minimum quality. The three most important food and agricultural commodities worldwide are rice, cow milk, and beef. A list of top commodities in key world regions is given below. For commodity rankings by country, see the UN's FAO website.

  • Africa: beef, cassava, yams, cow milk, plantains, rice, peanuts
  • Asia: rice, pork, buffalo milk, cow milk, wheat, fresh vegetables, eggs
  • Europe: cow milk, pork, wheat, beef, chicken meat, grapes, potatoes
  • North America: beef, cow milk, maize, chicken meat, soybeans, wheat, pork
  • Oceania (inc. Australia): cow milk, beef, sheep meat, wheat, chicken meat, wool, grapes
  • South America: beef, soybeans, chicken meat, sugar cane, cow milk, rice, pork
agricultural inputs

direct inputs include water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Indirect inputs include equipment and fuel.

agricultural subsidy

governmental financial support given to farmers and agribusiness to supplement their income, manage the supply of agricultural commodities (e.g. corn), and influence the cost and supply of such commodities. Annual subsidies amount to about €48 billion in the EU and $16 billion in the US.

Most federal farm support programs either give cash to farmers whether they grow more crops or not, or boost farm income by raising crop prices through import restrictions, market controls, or temporary land set-asides, all of which make food artificially expensive, not artificially cheap. ~Robert Paarlberg


the study of the interrelationships of biological organisms with each other and with their environment in an agricultural system.


flower color alleleone of two or more versions of a gene. A diploid individual inherits two alleles for each gene, one from each parent. If the two alleles are the same, the individual is homozygous for that gene. If the alleles are different, the individual is heterozygous.


an abnormal immune reaction to naturally occurring protein substances (allergens). Proteins introduced in crops through genetic engineering are from sources with no history of allerginicity or toxicity; they do not resemble known toxins or allergens; and they have functions that are well understood. They are assessed for potential allergenic or toxic activity in accordance with guidelines developed by relevant international organizations, based on digestibility, homology, and mammalian tests. (All three types of tests are performed in every case.) No allergic reaction to a GE crop has ever been reported despite extensive biosafety tests in several countries, including the US.

amino acids

the building blocks of proteins, which are linear chains of amino acids, encoded by the DNA in genes.

animal production claims, USDA approvable

USDA logoe.g. raised without added hormones, raised without antibiotics (beef and lamb), not fed animal byproducts, free range, free roaming, grass fed (may be grown to maturity in feedlots), corn fed, grain fed, certified organic.

animal production claims, USDA non-approvable

e.g. hormone free, antibiotic free, residue free, naturally raised, naturally grown, drug free, chemical free, organically raised. Hormones, for example, are only approved for use in beef and lamb production. They are not approved for use in pigs, poultry, etc. Therefore, the phrase "no hormones administered" on a chicken label cannot be approved unless it is followed (directly) with the statement "federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in poultry."


a position critical of the scientific method. Antiscience is frequently associated with contingents at the far left and far right of the social spectrum.

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

APHISthe USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. APHIS is responsible for protecting animal health and welfare, and plant health. APHIS regulates the importation, transportation and release of genetically engineered crops, whereas the FDA regulates the safety of GE crops for food and feed, and the EPA regulates the safety of GE crops for the environment.

appropriate technology
intermediate technology

an ideological economic movement encompassing technological choice and application that is small scale, labor intensive, energy efficient, ecologically sound, and locally controlled. Some biotech applications can be ‘appropriate’ in this sense, and some cannot. Genetic engineering, for example, is simply a tool that can be used in many different ways, depending on the decisions of policy makers, farmers, and consumers.

[Genetic engineering] is a relatively simple technology that scientists in most countries, including many developing countries, have perfected. The product of GE technology, a seed, requires no extra maintenance or additional farming skills. Its arrangement of genes can be passed down from generation to generation and improved along the way. ~Pam Ronald

assisted reproductive technology

fertilizationinfertility treatment used to achieve pregnancy by artificial or partially artificial means.

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