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Glossary

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

A
agrobiotechnology: Modern biological knowledge and methods that can be applied to human goals in agriculture.

alleles: Different versions of the same gene at a single locus. For example, there are three versions of the gene that determines ABO blood type in humans.

allergenicity: The tendency of a substance to cause allergic reactions.

allergens: Substances that trigger allergic reactions.

amplification: The production of many copies of a DNA sequence.

antibodies: Specialized proteins of animal immune systems that initiate the body's defense response.

antigens: Compounds that stimulate production of antibodies.

Arabidopsis: Arabidopsis thalliana, a small plant related to mustard plants.

B
biochemical: Of or relating to the chemical reactions that occur in living organisms.

bio-pharming: Production of pharmaceutical molecules in genetically engineered crops. Synonyms: pharming, molecular farming.

biotech food: Food that is produced using techniques of modern biotechnology.

biotechnology: Modern scientific knowledge and methods that can be applied to human goals in biological fields.

Bt: Abbreviation of Bacillus thuringiensis, a soil bacterium whose spores contain a protein that is toxic to some insects.

C
catalyze: Facilitate; trigger; cause a potential action to occur.

chromosome: A long section of DNA that carries important genetic information and that remains distinct from other long pieces of DNA inside the cell.

cross-pollination: Fertilization of flowers on a plant by pollen from another plant. The pollen can be blown by the wind or carried by insects, birds, or other animals.

cultivar: A cultivated variety. A more or less uniform strain of a crop species, for example, "Golden Jubilee" corn.

D
detasseling: Removal of the tassel (the pollen-bearing structure at the top of a corn plant), either manually or mechanically. Used as a method to control pollination.

dicot: The group of plants in which germinating seedlings have two cotyledon leaves, for example, beans.

diploid: Having two complete sets of chromosomes.

E
electrophoresis: A technique for separating a mixture of different molecules by causing the molecules to move through an electric field.

electroporation: A technique for introducing new DNA into a cell by applying a jolt of electricity to create openings in the plasma membrane that surrounds a cell.

enzymes: proteins that facilitate biochemical reactions.

F

G
GE: genetically engineered. Modified using recombinant DNA techniques.

gene: a segment of DNA that is translated into RNA.

gene flow: Transfer of genes from one population of plants to another, through either pollen drift or seed mixing.

genetic trespass: The movement of unwanted genes into a crop by cross-pollination from a crop in a neighboring field.

genetically engineered: Modified by the use of recombinant DNA technology. Abbreviated as GE.

genetically modified: Commonly used as a synonym for "genetically engineered." Abbreviated as GM. Plant breeders point out that traditional selection methods also modify the genetic material, but the current use of GM implies that recombinant DNA technology has been used.

genome: An organism's complete set of genetic material.

genus: A classification level of organisms that includes closely related species; also, the first word in the two-word scientific name of an organisms, for example, Zea is the genus for Zea mays (corn).

H
haploid: Having one complete set of chromosomes.

herbicide: A chemical that kills plants.

hormones: Chemical messengers that are active at low concentrations and are produced in specialized cells. Both plants and animals rely heavily on hormones for signaling in growth and development processes and responses to the environment.

I
insecticide: A substance that kills insects.

intron: A DNA sequence found within a gene that is removed during RNA processing and is not translated into the gene's protein product.

isolation distance: Distance that separates one field of plants from another. Used to maintain seed purity in seed production fields and to minimize cross-pollination between different kinds of plants, for example, transgenic crops and organically grown crops.

J

K

L

M
male sterility: Failure of plants to produce fertile pollen. Can be the result of naturally occurring genes, genetic engineering, or mutation.

monocot: The group of plants in which germinating seedlings have one cotyledon leaf, for example, corn.

N
non-selective herbicide: A chemical that kills all or nearly all plants. The contrasting term is "selective herbicide," a chemical that kills some plants but not others.

O
outcrossing: Cross-pollination, or fertilization of flowers on a plant by pollen from another plant.

P
plant-made pharmaceuticals (PMP): Chemicals with pharmaceutical applications produced in genetically engineered crops.

promoter: The part of a gene that acts as an on/off switch to control when and where in the plant the gene product is made.

Q

R
recombinant DNA technology: The techniques by which scientists insert, delete, or change stretches of DNA in living organisms.

recombination: Reciprocal exchange of DNA between two members of a chromosome pair that occurs during meiosis. Also called crossing-over.

restriction enzyme: An enzyme that cleaves double-stranded DNA at a particular sequence.

S
self-pollination: Fertilization of flowers by pollen from the same plant. The contrasting term is cross-pollination or outcrossing.

selective herbicide: A chemical that kills plants in certain classes but not others. The contrasting term is "non-selective" herbicide, a chemical that kills all or nearly all plants.

T
transcription: The process by which the DNA blueprint is copied to create RNA.

transformation: The transfer and incorporation of DNA into an organism.

transgene: A gene that is introduced into an organism's genome during the genetic engineering process. The transgene is usually from a source distantly related to the host organism.

U

V
volunteer: A plant that germinates from a seed left behind in the field from a previous crop.

W

X

Y

Z

 

Page last updated : October 15, 2003

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