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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
carbon footprint

carbon footprint www.thedailygreen.comthe total set of greenhouse gas emissions (usually including methane and nitrous oxide in addition to CO2) caused directly and indirectly by an individual, organization, event, or product.

(...) the ultimate culprit behind agriculture-driven climate change isn’t carbon dioxide. Instead, it’s methane and nitrous oxide (...) Agricultural production in the U.S. accounts for only 7 percent of overall carbon dioxide emissions. By contrast, it accounts for 19-25 percent of methane emissions and 70-75 percent of nitrous oxide emissions. Methane, according to the EPA, is 23 times more potent a GHG than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide is 310 times as potent. ~Jimmy McWilliams

carbon neutral

a balance between the amount of carbon released and the amount sequestered or offset. Neutrality can be achieved by using renewable energy sources that don't produce any CO2 and by sequestering atmospheric CO2.

carbon sequestration

the long-term storage of carbon in soil (by incorporating it into biomass), underground, or the ocean, thus reducing atmospheric levels of CO2 (the principal anthropogenic greenhouse gas). Fertile soils are rich in sequestered carbon.

Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack
case involving GMO sugar beets

lawsuit involving the right to grow Roundup Ready sugar beet being heard in a federal court in California. The plaintives are Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, and High Mowing Organic Seeds. The defendant is US Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas Vilsack. The crux of the case is whether any gene flow is permitted from a genetically engineered crop to any other crop, because it eliminates the farmer’s choice to grow crops that are 100% transgene free.


chromosomea long, continuous piece of DNA that contains many genes, as well as regulatory elements and other intervening nucleotide sequences. Chromosomes also include DNA-bound proteins that serve to package and manage the DNA. Different organisms have different numbers of chromosomes. Each parent contributes half of each of their sets of chromosomes to their offspring. See ploidy, allele.

classical breeding
conventional or traditional breeding

breeding of related individuals to produce new crop varieties with useful properties. Plants are crossed to move desired traits from one variety into another. During crossing, thousands of genes are transferred concomitantly. Progeny are tested for the desired trait, then backcrossed and further developed. Classical breeding relies largely on inbred lines and takes advantage of the genetic diversity generated by homologous recombination. The classical plant breeder may also use techniques such as protoplast fusion, embryo rescue, or mutagenesis to generate diversity and produce plants that would not exist in nature. See also intraspecific diversity, cultigen, landrace.

clean energy

natural energetic processes that can be harnessed with little pollution, such as fuels derived from plants and algae (biofuels), geothermal power, wind power, small-scale hydropower, solar energy, biomass power, tidal power, and wave power. Clean energy programs also focus on sustainable energy infrastructure and energy storage technology.

clean energy biotechnology

the use of biotechnology to produce biofuels from renewable agricultural resources. Examples include: genetically engineering plants and algae to be super efficient at producing lipids that can be made into biodiesel, fermenting sugars and starches to make bioethanol, or genetically engineering enzymes that can make cellulosic ethanol from plant waste or nonfood crops.

clean energy economy

a system of economic activity that generates jobs, businesses, and investments while expanding clean energy production, increasing energy efficiency, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, waste and pollution, and conserving water and other natural resources.

climate change
anthropogenic global warming

Hyderbadmajor changes in temperature, rainfall, snow, or wind patterns lasting for decades or longer. Both human-made and natural factors contribute to climate change, but natural processes alone cannot explain the rapid warming seen today. Heat-trapping greenhouse gases are at record-high levels in the atmosphere compared with the recent and distant past. Anthropomorphic climate change is the result of a strengthening of the greenhouse effect mostly due to human-produced increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases.

climate-neutral agriculture

a sustainable farming system achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

  • FFT Lecture: Farming Systems in an Age of Climate Change
    • online lecture
    • podcast
    • study guide

John Silver w/ Dollythe making of an exact genetic copy — this can mean making copies of a DNA fragment (molecular cloning), of a cell (cell cloning), or of an organism (the most famous example being Dolly the sheep). Human clones are among us right now: they're identical twins, created the old fashioned way.

cloning vector

a small, self-replicating DNA molecule used as a vehicle to transfer genes of interest into a cell. The four major types of vectors are plasmids, viruses, cosmids, and artificial chromosomes. See also YAC.

cloning vector

a small, self-replicating DNA molecule used as a vehicle to transfer genes of interest into a cell. The four major types of vectors are plasmids, viruses, cosmids, and artificial chromosomes. See also YAC.


farmers engaged in conventional, organic, and transgenic agriculture working together using known and practical agronomic practices to minimize the impacts of their production methods on neighboring fields. Most concerns are economic: market access, contract specifications, and consumer preferences. A major worry is that the mere presence of transgenic materials may decreases the value of the conventional or organic crop, especially in export markets. See gene flow, transgene.

conventional agriculture

any type of farming system that is not certified organic, including methods ranging from low input, rainfed cultivation; to intensive, irrigated specialty cropping; to greenhouse production. Conventional farmers can use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, but they can also use natural fertilizers (e.g. manure or compost) and various integrated pest management techniques (e.g. biological controls).

conventional breeding

see classical breeding.

Coordinated Framework for Biotechnology

the US federal system for evaluating products developed using recombinant DNA technology, based on the health and safety laws that were already in place to address conventional product classes. The agencies responsible for oversight are the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

crop domestication

a selection process conducted under human influence to increase adaptations to cultivated conditions and usefulness to consumers of harvested products like grains, tubers, fruits, and fibers. Domestication also involved selection for adaptations to new environments, as crops were transported from their original centers of domestication to other regions. Domestication has been conducted for some 10,000 years in several global regions independently. See also selective breeding.

anthropogenic plant

pineapple (biodiversityexplorer.org)a type of plant that has been deliberately altered (genetically modified) by humans. Cultigens are defined by their mode of origin and not by whether or not they're under cultivation (even if they've become naturalised). See also subspecies, cultivar.


a cultivated variety of a plant (often but not always a hybrid) that has been deliberately altered (genetically modified), and propagated to maintain its desirable characteristics (flower color, yield, disease resistance, etc). Cultivars are ranked in cultigen classification schemes. Recognition of a cultivar as a variety provides its breeder with some legal protection. See also subspecies, cultigen, variety.

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