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Glossary

Agriculture
The science and business of producing crops and/or livestock that provides food, fabric, and fuel.

Agricultural Biotechnology
Using molecular or cellular biology techniques to advance genetic improvement of plants or animals to enhance their productivity.

Agrobacterium tumefaciens
A soil bacterium used in biotechnology to transfer genes to plant cells as a result of its ability to naturally transfer DNA into a plant host.

Allele
An alternative version, or variant, of a given gene.

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)
A soil microorganism that is used as a biological insecticide by farmers—including organic farmers—to control pests. Additionally, the cry gene from this microorganism has been engineered into some crops to confer insect resistance.

Biofortification
To engineer or alter the metabolism of a plant to produce higher levels of a specific nutrient.

Biotechnology
The practice of using tools from cellular biology, molecular biology, genetics, and biochemistry to improve genetic attributes of plants, animals, and other organisms.

Breeding
The human-facilitated mating of plants or animals with the objective of genetic improvement through selection.

Chromosome
Determines the inheritance of traits; made up of  proteins and a molecule of DNA combined in a long, threadlike structure.

Conventional Agriculture
Crop production from elite plant lines, maximized with inputs such as insecticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.

Cisgenics
Transfer of gene(s) from one plant line to another using recombinant DNA technology—but only using sequences from sexually-compatible species.

Cloning
Creating a genetic replica of DNA (be it a fragment or an entire organism) without sexual reproduction.

Domestication
The genetic selection of wild species by humans over generations of time to serve human and animal needs better than ancestors.

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA)
Carries genetic information in living systems. The molecule’s characteristic double-helix structure is made up of four base proteins and a sugar-phosphate backbone.

Gene
The functional unit of heredity, found on a chromosome. The “blueprint” in DNA that encodes information leading to cellular structure and function.

Gene Silencing
The use of recombinant DNA technology to precisely decrease or eliminate the expression of a specific gene.

Genetic Engineering
Deliberate alteration of the genetic information within a cell or organism to adjust gene expression relevant to a specific trait. Also referred to as: Gene splicing, gene manipulation, recombinant DNA technology, and transgenic technology.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)
A colloquial term ascribed to an organism produced through genetic engineering techniques; however, it less specifically also includes plants and animals with genetic improvements derived through more traditional, conventional breeding methods.

Genome
The complete genetic material found in the chromosomes of a particular organism.

Herbicide
Specialty crop chemicals used for the control of weeds. This is a class of pesticide.

Herbicide-Tolerance
Genetic adjustment of plant structures or metabolism that interferes with action of compounds toxic to plants. One can therefore apply the specific herbicide directly to the field without damaging crop.

Hybrid
The offspring resulting from the cross of two parental lines chosen by desired traits or a potentially likely benefit from mixing of genetics.

Hybrid Seed
Most commonly, the seed resulting from mating two elite plant lines with the intention of moving all positive traits into a common background.

Insecticide
Specialty crop protection chemicals used for the control of insects. This is a class of pesticide.

Meiosis
Cell division leading to the production of specialized cells required for transmission of genetic material upon mating.

Mitosis
Cell division leading to the production of two identical cells from one ancestor.

Natural Selection
The process where a given trait increases in prevalence in a population due to its positive effect on an organism, conferring an advantage to reproduce.

Organic Agriculture
Crop production techniques that exclude the use of synthetic insecticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and forbid use of plants possessing genetically engineered traits. An official label indicates certification by the United States Department of Agriculture regulatory body.

Pesticide
Including insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodentcides, pesticides are used to rid of specific pest organisms. 

Pest Resistance
Plants with an inherent structural or chemical deterrent to insect, arthropod, or fungal pests as a result of specific breeding or genetic engineering techniques.

Precautionary Principle
The concept that conservative, protective action should be taken in the absence of empirical evidence of risk, despite potential benefits from such a change.

Recombinant DNA Technology (rDNA)
A breeding technique in which a copy of a DNA fragment containing one or more genes is transferred, or “recombined,” within another organism. Used widely in the cloning of genes, in genetic modification of organisms, and in molecular biology—including pharmaceutical production, generally.

Selective Breeding
Human-directed identification and breeding of plants or animals that possess useful traits compared to their ancestors.

Substantial Equivalence
The concept that two genetically-different plant lines are deemed the same based on composition and safety.

Superweed
A colloquial, derogatory term referring to a plant pest resistant to an herbicide.

Transgenic
Refers to a plant, animal, or other organism that contains genetic material introduced through recombinant DNA technology, of which can be passed on to successive generations.

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