Glossary

Agrobacterium tumefaciens – The soil bacterium which, when containing the Ti plasmid, is able to form crown galls on a number of dicotyledonous plants.

Allergen – A substance, usually a protein, that causes an allergic reaction.

Allergenicity – The capacity of an allergen to cause an allergic reaction.

Amino acid – The building block components of proteins. Twenty different essential amino acids are used by all living organisms to make proteins.

Antinutrient – A substance within a food that interferes with the uptake of nutrients from food.

Antibiotic resistance marker gene – Genes (usually of bacteria origin) used as selection markers in genetic engineering, because their expression allows cell survival in the presence of normally toxic antibiotic agents. These genes were commonly used in the development and release of first generation genetically engineered crop plants.

Antibody: A protein produced by the immune system in response to an antigen (a molecule that is perceived to be foreign). Antibodies bind specifically to their target antigen to help the immune system render the foreign entity harmless.

Bacterium – A single-celled life form whose genetic material is not enclosed in a nucleus.

Carbohydrate – Simple sugars and starches present in foods that provide the body with energy and nutrition.

Cauliform mosaic virus CaMV) – A good source of strong promoters used in plant cloning vectors.

Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) – A commission set up by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization of the United Nations in 1962 to develop a code of food standards for all nations.

Composition Analysis: The determination of the concentration of compounds in a plant or animal tissue. Compounds that are commonly quantified are proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids and antinutrients.

Conventional Counterpart – a related organism/variety, its components and/or products for which there is experience of establishing safety based on common use as food.

Cry proteins A class of crystalline proteins produced by strains of Bacillus thuringiensis and engineered into crop plants to give resistance against insect pests. These proteins are toxic to certain categories of insects (e.g. Lepidopteran etc) but are harmless to mammals and most beneficial insects. Toxin called delta endotoxins.
Dietary exposure – Contact by ingestion between a physical, chemical or biological agent and an organism.
DNA – Stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is made up of four nucleotides (bases), adenine, guanine, cytosine and thymine on a phosphate backbone. DNA is usually double stranded with base pairing between strands occurring between adenine and thymine, and cytosine and guanine.

Epitope – also known as allergenic determinant, is the part of a macromolecule that is recognized by the immune system specifically by antibodies, B cells or T cells.

Event – A term used to describe a plant and its offspring that contain a specific insertion of DNA. Events are distinguishable from each other by their unique site of integration of the introduced DNA.

Food additive – Substances added to foods to improve taste, appearance, texture, storage life or other qualities.

Gene – A segment of a DNA strand that contains the instructions to encode for an RNA and/or polypeptide molecule.

Gene expression – The process by which a gene directs the synthesis of mRNA, which in turn directs the synthesis of protein, thereby affecting the phenotype of an organism.
Gene Transfer: The transfer of genes to an organism. Usually used in terms of transfer of a gene to an organism other that the original organism, through the tools of biotechnology.

Genetically modified foods (GM foods) – These are foods produced from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that that have had their genome altered through genetic engineering or foods that contain ingredients from GMOs.
Genetically modified organism (GMO) – A life form that has been genetically modified using techniques of modern gene technology.

Gene silencing – Loss of gene expression either through an alteration in the DNA sequence of a structural gene, or its regulatory region; or because of interaction between its transcript and other mRNAs present in the cell.
Genetic engineering – The use of experimental techniques to produce DNA molecules containing new genes or new combinations of genes.

Genome – The total genetic material of a living organism.

Genotype – The genetic make-up of a plant or organism.
Hazard: A biological, chemical, or physical agent, or condition, with the potential to cause an adverse health or environmental effect.

Hazard Characterization: The qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation of the nature of the adverse health effects associated with biological, chemical and physical agents. For chemical agents, a dose-response assessment should be performed if the data are obtainable.

Hazard Identification: The identification of biological, chemical and physical agents capable of causing adverse health or environmental effects.

Herbicide – A substance that is able to kill certain types of plants when applied at specific doses.

Herbicide tolerant – Plants with an increased ability to tolerate commercial applications of herbicide.

Host – An organism that has been genetically modified is sometimes said to be the ‘host’ for genetic material provided by another organism.

Immunoglobulin E (IgE) – A protein antibody that recognizes an allergen. It circulates in the blood and becomes fixed on the surface of specific cells (basophils and mast cells). When IgE on the cell surface binds to allergen, this triggers the release of chemical mediators that provoke the symptoms associated with allergic reactions.
Irradiated food – A food that has been subjected to a measured dose of radiation to reduce the level of bacterial contamination or to control quarantine pests.

Insect protected – Plants that have an inbuilt capacity to protect themselves from damage by particular insect pests.

Isoflavones – Water-soluble chemicals, also known as phytoestrogens,found in many plants and so named because they causeeffects in the mammalian body somewhat similar to those of
estrogen. The most investigated natural isoflavones, genisteinand daidzen, are found in soy products and the herb red clover.

Isogenic line – Genetically identical, used as a basis of comparison in establishing substantial equivalence

Kilodalton (kDa) –A kilodalton is a unit used to measure the mass of atoms as well as molecules, such as proteins. One kilodalton is equal to 1000 daltons. One dalton equals the atomic weight of a hydrogen atom (1.66 x 10-24 grams).

Macronutrient – In humans and animals, a substance that is required in relatively large amounts for healthy growth and development, and belongs to one of 3 groups: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

Marker gene – A marker gene is a gene attached to the desired gene and used in genetic modification to allow researchers to identify those cells that have successfully taken up the new DNA.

Micronutrient – In humans and animals, a substance, such as a vitamin or trace element, essential for healthy growth and developmentbut required only in minute amounts.

Microorganism – A microscopic life form, usually single-celled, such as bacteria or yeast.

Molecular characterization – This includes DNA sequence data and the mapping of particular functions on the plant chromosome and on the inserted DNA.
Modern biotechnology means the application of In vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant DNA and direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles; or fusion of cells beyond the taxonomic family, that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombinant barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection.

Novel food – Non-traditional foods for which there is insufficient knowledge in the broad community to enable safe use in the form or context in which the food is presented.

Nutrient – A substance that provides nourishment and promotes growth, health and wellbeing.

Plasmid – Circular extra-chromosomal DNA molecules present in bacteria and yeast. Plasmids replicate autonomously each time the organism divides and are transmitted to the daughter cells.DNA segments are commonly cloned using plasmid vectors.

Pesticide – A substance that is able to kill certain types of pests when applied at specific doses.

Phenotype – An organism(s) expressed physical traits.
Plasmid – A plasmid is a small piece of DNA that can replicate itself within a bacterial cell. Plasmids are used in gene technology as a way to introduce new genes into other cells.

Pleiotropic effects – The simultaneous effect of a given gene on more than one apparently unrelated trait.

Post-translational modification – The addition of specific chemical residues to a protein after it has been translated e.g. sugars (glycosylation), methyl groups (methylation).

Promoter – A DNA sequence that enables a cell to turn a particular gene on.

Recombinant – A transformed cell that contains a recombinant DNA molecule.

Recombinant DNA molecule – A DNA molecule created in the test tube by ligating together pieces of DNA that are not normally contiguous.

Rebonucleic Acid (RNA) – RNA stands for ribonucleic acid. RNA is similar in structure to DNA but is generally single stranded. RNA in the cell has many functions, one of these is to act as a template for the synthesis of proteins. RNA that acts as a template for the synthesis of proteins is called messenger RNA or mRNA.

Risk – A function of the probability of an adverse health effect andthe severity of that effect, which is consequential to a hazard(s).

Risk analysis – A process consisting of three components: risk assessment, risk management, and risk communication performed to understand the nature of unwanted, negative consequences to human and animal health, or the environment.

Risk assessment – A scientifically based process consisting of the following steps: (i) hazard identification;(ii) hazard characterization; (iii) exposure assessment; and iv) risk characterization.

Risk management – The process, distinct from risk assessment, of weighing policy alternatives, in consultation with all interested parties, considering risk assessment and other factors relevant for the health protection of consumers and for the promotion of fair trade practices, and, if needed, selecting appropriate prevention and control options.

Secondary metabolism – The production by living organisms of substances not essential for primary metabolic functions or physiology. Their role is associated with interaction with the environment, for example for defence, as elicitors, or as
attractants. Some of these have useful pharmacological or nutritional properties, while others are toxic.

Selectable marker – A gene carried by a vector and conferring a recognizable characteristic on cell containing the vector or recombinant DNA molecule derived from the vector.

Sequence Homology – The degree of identity or similarity between 2 selected nucleotide or amino acid sequences.

Sera-binding Tests – Immunological assays that test for the presence of antigen-specific immunoglobulins (for example, IgE) in blood serum, for example serum obtained from individuals allergic to food, pollen, or other environmental antigens. Sera binding tests include assays such as western blotting, Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assays (ELISA), ELISA-inhibition, Radio AllergSorbent Test (RAST) and RAST-inhibition techniques.

Substantial equivalent (SE) – SE is a concept used in the safety assessment of GM food that states, a food derived from a genetically modified plant or microorganism should be as safe as its traditional counterpart.

Toxin – A substance that can cause adverse health effects under typical circumstances of exposure.

Toxicity – The capacity of a toxin to cause a toxic reaction.

Toxicokinetics – The study of the time-dependent processes related to toxicants as they interact with living organisms. It encompasses absorption, distribution, storage, biotransformation and elimination.

Trait – A distinguishing feature or quality.

Transcription – Transcription is the process of copying information from DNA in the cell to RNA. TheRNA is then used to make proteins by a process called translation.

Transgenic – Adjective describing an organism in which a foreign DNA gene (a transgene) is incorporated into its genome.

Translation – Translation is the process where information contained on an RNA strand is decoded into an amino acid sequence to produce a protein.

Trypsin Inhibitors – Antinutrient proteins present in plants such as soybeans that inhibit the digestive enzyme, trypsin if not inactivated by heating or other processing methods.

Unintended Effect – An effect that was not the purpose of the genetic modification or mutation.

Vector – A DNA molecule, capable of replication in a host organism, into which a gene is inserted to construct a DNA molecule.

Virus – A microscopic particle containing genetic material that is only able to reproduce by infecting a living cell.