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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
mammalian tests

as one of multiple methods of evaluating the potential allergy risks of GE crops, lab animals are exposed to transgenic proteins and monitored for allergic responses.

mandatory labeling
"contains GMOs"

the genetic engineering of foods is a concern for many people around the world. Europeans have perhaps been the most fearful, implementing strict labeling requirements for all genetically engineered foods sold within the EU. In the US, however, labeling is required only if a food has a significantly different nutritional property, is in any way more toxic, or contains an allergen that consumers would not expect to be present (e.g. a peanut protein in a soybean product). Since none of these conditions are met by any food on the market, US consumers are not seeing GMOs labeled.


glucosea compound made by a living organism; a starting material, an intermediate product, or an end product of metabolism (e.g. an amino acid, a simple sugar, a lipid). Metabolites are more than just the products of protein-catalyzed reactions; they are the sensors and regulators of genotype and phenotype interactions.


the study of all the genetic material present in an environmental sample, consisting of the genomes of many individual organisms. Metagenomics usually refers to the study of microbial communities.


any type of measurement used to gauge some quantifiable component of performance. Metrics for sustainable agriculture should be outcome based and technology neutral, and expressed as output per area (e.g. bushels per acre, tons per hectare).


small RNA molecules that down-regulate gene expression by attaching to and disabling messenger RNAs.

molecular biology

the study of organisms at the molecular level; the study of DNA, RNA, proteins, and metabolites in living cells.

molecular biology techniques

DNA electrophoresis: PCR productsallow biologists to study organisms at the molecular level. Examples include expression profiling (to study phenotype), the polymerase chain reaction, expression cloning (to study protein function), various forms of gel electrophoresis (to separate molecules of DNA, RNA, or protein), southern blotting (to check for the presence of a specific DNA sequence), northern blotting (to examine gene expression patterns), western & eastern blotting (to look at protein expression patterns), etc.

molecular biology tools

allow biologists to study organisms at the molecular level. Examples include high-throughput arrays (for expression profiling), thermal cycling machines (for PCR), DNA sequencers, mass spectrometers, nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometers, online analysis tools, kits (cell fractionation, DNA isolation, DNA ligation, etc), etc.

molecular breeding

uses techniques of molecular biology to select, or in the case of genetic engineering, to insert, desirable traits into plants. Molecular breeding approaches include precision breeding, reverse breeding, and genetic engineering.

monarch butterfly scare

Monarchin 1999, a single paper presenting preliminary data suggested that Bt corn pollen might have the potential to poison monarch caterpillars. In 2001, six comprehensive studies established that the Bt pollen poses no risk to monarchs: both laboratory and field studies confirmed that the density of the pollen doesn’t even come close to levels that would harm the butterflies. Moreover, there is limited overlap between the period that Bt corn sheds pollen and when caterpillars are present, and only a portion of the monarch caterpillar population feeds on milkweeds in and near cornfields. Studies have since demonstrated the indirect beneficial effect of Bt corn on Monarch populations resulting from reduced pesticide use.

messenger RNAs

copies of genomic DNA that code for specific proteins.


a process by which the genetic information (DNA) of an organism is changed in a stable manner, either in nature or experimentally using chemicals or radiation.


chemicals produced in moldy crops — including aflatoxins — that can be poisonous or carcinogenic to humans (especially children) and livestock. Mycotoxin contamination threatens food safety in the developing world and causes the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in the US each year.

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