Oregon State University


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

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Click one of the letters above to be taken to a page of all terms beginning with that letter.

Term Definition

biomass to biofuels www.vsjf.orgcrops or waste products (e.g. used cooking oil, citrus peels, coffee grounds) that can be used as, or converted into, biofuels. Each feedstock crop has advantages and disadvantages in terms of how much usable material it yields, where it can grow, and how energy and water-intensive it is to grow and convert into fuel. First generation feedstocks are already widely grown and used for biofuel production, but are usually also used for food and feed production, which means that they sometimes create food versus fuel conflicts. Second generation feedstocks (like perennial crops and algae) have high potential biofuel yields, but have not been traditionally cultivated for food or fuel. See also biofuels, biomass.


a soil amendment (especially nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) applied to promote plant growth. Fertilizers are often categorized as either natural or synthetic, with the main difference between the two being sourcing, and not necessarily nutrient content — natural fertilizers are made from mineral deposits and organic materials, such as bone or plant meal or composted manure. Synthetic fertilizers are made by chemically processing raw materials. The actual elements and forms of these elements absorbed by plants are the same regardless of their source. See also natural fertilizers, synthetic fertilizers.

Field to Market
The Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture

a collaborative stakeholder group of producers, agribusinesses, food and retail companies, and conservation organizations working together to develop a supply chain system that motivates agricultural sustainability.


the ratio of agricultural inputs to outputs. The smaller the ratio, the more sustainable a farm’s production operations are likely to be, because fewer resources are used to produce the same result. See agricultural inputs.

fieldprint calculator

available at www.fieldtomarket.org, a tool to help farmers look at how their crop production operations impact the sustainability of their practices, especially concerning energy use, climate impact, soil loss, and water use.

first-generation GE crops

crops genetically engineered to contain input traits (like herbicide, insect, and environmental stress tolerance) that benefit farmers. In the world’s temperate zones, approximately 1.6 billion acres have been planted with first-generation GE crops — mostly herbicide resistant soybeans, and insect resistant corn and cotton. In tropical and arid climate zones, crops engineered for stress tolerance (e.g. drought, salt) will likely be most helpful to farmers.


FishWisea non-profit organization designed to improve the sustainability (including the economic viability) of seafood retailers, distributors, and producers. FishWise uses a three-tier system of color-coded labels that ranks seafood products according to sustainability criteria. FishWise was founded by ocean science graduate students from the University of California Santa Cruz. Each report is generated based on sustainability metrics and is externally reviewed for scientific content and accuracy.

flood-tolerant rice

rice paddyprecision-bred rice cultivars that are high yielding, taste good, and tolerate flooding. Created by crossing a low-yielding, flood-tolerant variety and modern, locally adapted rice varieties (landraces) using precision breeding (after decades of conventional breeding attempts had failed). Before seed for this crop became available, enough rice to feed 30 million people (on average) was lost to flooding each year in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India. For more info see precision breeding.

food footprint

the total set of greenhouse gasses emitted plus the total volume of water consumed (directly or indirectly) to grow food and get it from farm to table. See also carbon footprint and water footprint.

food miles

the distance our food travels before we eat it.

food security

when all people, at all times, can access safe, nutritious foods at affordable prices in amounts sufficient for active and healthy lives. Adequate water and sanitation are directly related to food security. Worldwide, nearly one billion people are chronically hungry and more than half of all childhood deaths are attributable to malnutrition. In regions facing the biggest challenges with food security, most cropland is farmed without synthetic inputs or GMOs, and active prevention strategies like education, supplementation, and food fortification are insufficient to create adequate diets. Agricultural interventions are fundamental to improving nutritional status.

forward genetics

phenotype to gene. In forward genetics, the phenotype is known, but the gene sequence is not. Based on differences between individuals that share and do not share the trait of interest, the gene is mapped and identified. See also reverse genetics.


photo by scott pollocka pejorative term for genetically engineered food, be it plant or animal-based. Coined from Franken(stein) + food as a warning against the dangers of blind technology.

free range

a method of farming husbandry in which animals are allowed to roam freely rather than be contained in any manner. In the United States, however, agricultural regulations apply only to poultry (i.e. the term is meaningless when applied to milk or red meat), and producers must demonstrate merely that their animals have theoretical access to the outside (no specifications are made regarding the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time an animal must have access).

functional genomics

analyses of gene expression at the transcriptome (mRNA), proteome (protein), or metabolome (metabolite) level, often using high throughput technology.

Contact Info

Copyright ©  2014 Oregon State University