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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
Panama disease
Fusarium wilt

Fusarium oxysporuma disease caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum, which attacks the roots of the banana plant causing wilt. Fusarium wilt wiped out Gros Michel bananas in the 1950s.


genes related by duplication within a genome. Orthologs retain the same function over the course of evolution, whereas paralogs evolve new functions.


laws implemented to encourage innovation by allowing investors to recoup costs of research and development.  While there are several types of patents in the US, utility patents are the most pertinent to biotech applications involving living organisms.  Since the 1980s, utility patents have been widely used to protect plant varieties developed using either traditional breeding or genetic engineering.

polymerase chain reaction

The PCR Songenables technicians and researchers to produce millions of copies of a specific DNA sequence within a matter of hours. This automated process gets around the need to use bacteria to amplify DNA. PCR is used in a wide variety of applications including: DNA cloning for sequencing, functional analysis of genes, creation of DNA-based phylogenies, diagnosis of hereditary diseases, diagnosis of infectious diseases, and genetic fingerprinting (used to classify species, subspecies, and cultivars; used to distinguish between individuals in forensic sciences and paternity testing). Real-time PCR is used to quantify targeted DNA molecules.

permanent agriculture

permaculture: www.family-gardens.coma farming system that aims to reduce inputs (while focusing on the total yield of the system as provided by annuals, perennials, and animals) and recycle outputs. Permaculture is intensive agriculture on a small, energy efficient scale, using diverse plant species (including local native plants), enhancing soil fertility, and engaging local communities in food growing.

Permaculture is anti-political. ~Bill Mollison
See solutions, not problems. ~Wes Jackson

insecticide, fungicide, herbicide, etc

a chemical substance or biological agent (such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes or insects) applied against any pest. Insecticides are used to control insect pests (e.g. European corn borer), fungicides to control plant diseases (e.g. potato blight), herbicides to control weedy pests (e.g. leafy spurge), etc. GE crops involve resistance to the herbicides glyphosate or glufosinate, or the presence of a natural bacterial insecticide (Bt toxin). Pesticides differ dramatically from one another in terms of specificity, toxicity, and environmental effects. The pesticides in use today differ greatly from those that predominated before the creation of the EPA in 1968. Pesticide production and application are highly regulated.

pesticide fate studies

describe what happens to a pesticide in soil, water, and air after it has been applied (how it degrades and where it goes).


the observable properties of a living organism (including morphology, development, and behavior). The phenotype arises from the interaction of the genotype with its environment. See also expression profiling.

physical genomics

genome mapping, genome sequencing, studies of genome organization, and comparisons between and among genomes. See functional genomics.


the use of plants to clean up polluted soil and water resources. See also bioremediation.

plant breeding

see classical breeding and molecular breeding

Plant Patent Act of 1930

US intellectual property statute authorizing utility patents for new varieties of asexually reproduced plants. The US Patent Act of 1952 refined the Plant Patent Act by requiring substantive change and invention. In 1980, a Supreme Court decision rendered genetically engineered organisms patentable under this statute. In 2001, sexually reproduced plants also became eligible for utility patents.

plant tissue culture

Plant_Tissue_Culture_Lab-Atlanta_Botanical_Gardenpropagation of plants under sterile conditions. Quickly produces exact copies of plants with desirable traits in the absence of seeds or pollinators. Among other advantages, the production of plants in sterile containers greatly reduces chances of transmitting diseases, pests, and pathogens.

plant utility patents

protect against the unlawful propagation or sale of either genetically engineered or conventionally bred crops for a minimum of 20 years.

Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970

US intellectual property statute authorizing plant variety protection certificates, giving breeders up to 25 years of exclusive control over new, distinct, uniform, and stable sexually reproduced or tuber propagated plant varieties.


the number of sets of chromosomes in an organism. Most plants and animals are diploid, i.e. have two sets, one inherited from each parent. Polyploid organisms have more than two sets — triploid cultivars of bananas, for instance, have three sets. Alleles on homologous chromosomes may be the same, or they may be different.

precision breeding
marker assisted breeding

a technique involving the use of genetic markers to track the inheritance of genes when closely related plants are crossed. Plants produced using this technique are, by definition, not transgenic; therefore, the compliance costs involved in developing cultivars suited to local conditions in developing countries are minimized.

precision farming

ipp.nasa.gov precision farmingagriculture that makes the best of in-field variability using technologies such as global positioning (GPS), sensors, satellites, and information management tools (GIS) to assess and understand variations. Collected information can be used to determine optimum sowing density, estimate fertilizer and other input needs, and predict crop yields. It seeks to avoid wasting agricultural inputs.


a linear chain of amino acids encoded by a gene that performs a specialized function in an organism.

protein conversion efficiency

eggs by megana measure of the amount of animal protein (livestock, poultry, milk, etc) yielded per unit of protein in feed. The average conversion of vegetable to animal protein is about 10 to 1, but it takes, for example, more feed to produce beef than chicken, and more to produce chicken than fish.

protoplast fusion
somatic fusion

a type of genetic modification in plants by which cells from inbred individuals of two distinct species are fused together and used to form a new hybrid plant with the characteristics of both parents. Thus, genomes can be recombined between plants that cannot reproduce sexually. See also classical breeding.

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