Glossary

Antibiotic
Antibiotics are important in the fight against disease and infection, but they become less effective over time if they are used incorrectly or excessively. The widespread use of antibiotics on healthy animals may lower their effectiveness in helping treat human illness. Organic farmers approach herd health holistically, treating animals without the use of antibiotics or hormones.

Antioxidant
An organic substance, such as vitamin E, vitamin C, or beta carotene, thought to protect body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation. Because of this, antioxidants are thought to be helpful in reducing the risk of cancer and other illnesses.

Aquaculture
The controlled cultivation and harvest of the natural produce of water; for example, fish and aquatic plants.

Artificial Flavour
An artificial flavour is an ingredient in foods that adds flavour but is not derived from a natural source such as an animal or a plant, such as an herb, spice, or vegetable.

Artisan Food
A general term used to describe food that is not factory-made by machine; they are labour-intensive, handmade, small-batch products, often of the finest ingredients, by skilled craftspeople.

Biodynamic Agriculture
A type of farming that is practiced around the world and is considered the oldest comprehensive method. A more rigorous process than organic farming, it maintains biodiversity and sustains soil productivity with the use of crop rotation, organic pest controls and the cyclical rhythms of nature. Practitioners attest that biodynamic agriculture results in healthier soil, self-sustaining farms, a greener planet, and great-tasting food and wines that are rich in nutrients.

Brassicas
Members of the cabbage family such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and kale.

BSE
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. A fatal neurodegenerative cattle disease that causes the brain of the cow to waste away. Primarily thought to be caused by the feeding of the remains of ruminant animals (sheep, other cows) to still-living ruminant animals. Humans that eat meat from a cow infected with BSE may contract the related disease “new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease”.

Bt
Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring soil bacteria. Can be used as part of a natural pesticide, but is most well known as the gene that has been inserted into many genetically modified crops (especially corn) so that insects who ingest the protein from the crop will be killed

Buffer Zone
An area located between a certified organic farm or a portion of a certified operation and adjacent land that is not maintained with organic standards. The buffer zone must be large enough or have other features that prevent contact of prohibited substances from adjacent land entering into the certified organic operation.

CAFO
Confined Animal Feeding Operation. An agricultural system in which food animals are confined to a lot and fed a processed diet usually heavy in corn. They are not allowed to roam freely, and are susceptible to a number of diseases as a result.

Cage-Free
Cage-free eggs are laid by hens that are not kept in cages. Advocates contend that contends that cage-free eggs definitely taste better and are healthier. In 1999, the European Union passed the Laying Hens Directive (1999/74/EC) – legislation requiring complete phasing out of the use of barren battery cage by 2012.

California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)
CCOF is an independent party that was the first to provide certification services to all stages of the organic food chain from farms to processors, restaurants, and retailers. CCOF certifies the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) standards and CCOF international standards.

Carcinogen
A proven cancer causing agent.

Certified Organic
A determination made by a certifying body that a production or processing operation meets minimum organic standards. A certificate is issued documenting the compliance and permitting the operation to use the certifier’s logo and certification number on the product.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
A CSA is a paid subscription to a farm where people buy a share of the farm and are provided with a variety of fruits and vegetables in return according to what is in season on a routine basis. This is an excellent way to build a relationship with a farmer and support local agriculture.

Composting
Compost is composed of organic matter that is recycled back into the earth. Organic matter may include lawn clippings, vegetable scraps from the kitchen, and untreated papers. These materials are combined and become a nutrient-rich mixture that enriches the soil.

Conventional
Food produced using modern agricultural methods which allow the use of chemicals and energy inputs typical of large scale mechanised farms (e.g., synthetic fertilisers, routine pesticide spraying, GMO’s and irradiation).

COOL
Country of Origin Labeling.

Cornfed
Great when it refers to strapping Midwestern teenagers, not so good when it refers to cows, whose stomachs have evolved to eat grass, not corn. Feeding CAFO cows corn makes them get fat faster but also upsets the pH balance in their stomach, causing them to become very gassy. Eventually the growing acid levels will eat away at the lining of the stomach walls, and some of the stomach bacteria will get into the bloodstream, where it lodges in the liver and causes abscesses, which farmers control with antibiotics, which get into the meat and the milk. Cornfed cattle have to be slaughtered at 14 to 16 months old.

Cornification of America
Phrase coined by Michael Pollan to indicate the pervasiveness of corn products in the national diet, including starches, thickeners, preservatives, and sweeteners. Corn has a molecular marker, C-4, that is retained in tissue, meaning it is theoretcially possible to measure how many corn products a person has consumed over his/her lifespan.

Cover Cropping
A crop that provides temporary protection for delicate seedlings and/or provides a canopy for seasonal soil protection and improvement between normal crop-production periods. Except in orchards where permanent vegetative cover is maintained, cover crops are usually grown for one year or less. When plowed under and incorporated into the soil, cover crops are also referred to as green manure crops.

Crop Rotation
A system of planting where crops vary from season to season; one crop is not grown each year as a new one replaces the one before.

Eco-conscious
Someone who is referred to as eco-conscious is conscious of the environment and the ecosystems that support it. People who are eco-conscious are aware of how our buying habits, living habits and eating habits impact the earth.

Ecosystem
Living things – and their corresponding physical environment – that form a complex, interconnected web of interactions and relationships

Fair Trade
A trading process that involves a cooperative association that ensures that marginalized and disadvantaged world producers and farmers receive sufficient compensation for goods and produce. Usually associated with the coffee industry, and identified with the Fair Trade logo.

Farmers’ Market
Farmers’ markets are typically held weekly, usually outside, and are a place where local farmers in any given area gather to sell their produce or specialty goods. Food sold at the market is not always organic, however the selection of organic food is traditionally broader at a Farmers’ Market than at other outlets. These markets are also a great place to develop relationships with the folks who grow your food.

Fragrance-Free
A product promoted as “fragrance-free” is typically one that has no fragrance ingredients added. The product will smell like the ingredients used to make it. This is different from “unscented” products, which have typically had some masking ingredients added to neutralize the product’s smell.

Free Range Farming
A system of farming that allows the animals to freely roam rather than confining them. It is generally accepted that the free range animals develop better muscle structure because they roam around more and eat a more varied diet (they can forage).

Freegans
Freegans are extreme environmentally-conscious citizens who strive to minimize impact on the environment by consuming food that has been or is about to be thrown away by someone else (e.g., dumpster diving at supermarkets).

Food Irradiation
Exposure to ionizing radiation, intended to be used as a method to kill bacteria and parasites that would otherwise cause food-borne diseases. Critics warn of the potentially harmful health impacts of this process. Food irradiation is not allowed in organic production.

Genetic Engineering
The use of recombinant DNA technology to deliberately manipulate the genes in an organism, resulting in a genetically modified organism (GMO). Potential dangers include the creation of new allergens and toxins, the evolution of new weeds or other noxious vegetation, and other safety and environmental issues resulting from the lack of long-term studies on GMOs. Genetic engineering is not permitted in organic production.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s)
GMO’s are created when genes are transferred from one organism to another – to create a new type of unnatural organism.

Gluten-Free
Free of ingredients that include wheat, barley, rye and oats. However, this does not mean these ingredients are completely absent from these products; read product packaging carefully.

Grass-fed
Beef and dairy products from cattle that feed themselves primarily through forage (in a pasture) rather than in a feedlot (where they are usually given corn. So what?). Grass-fed beef is lower in fat in general and has higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids (same ones found in salmon). Learn more The USDA is considering a “grass fed” label that would require 99 percent of the animal’s energy to have come from grass or forage, up from 80 percent, which would have allowed CAFO owners to feed them corn for the last three months of their short lives and still slap the “grass fed” label on the beef.

Harrowing
Shallow cultivation of the soil.

Heirloom
An antique variety of a plant popular in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, the seeds of which have been passed down from generation to generation.

Herbicide
A herbicide is a pesticide used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill certain targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often based on plant hormones. Herbicides used to clear waste ground are nonselective and kill every plant with which they come into contact.

HFCS
High fructose corn syrup. A syrup made from corn, composed of 55% fructose and 45% sucrose. Used in many mass-produced foods due to its cheapness relative to sugar, thanks to price subsidies for corn provided by the U.S. government.

Histamine
A naturally occurring substance that is released by the immune system after being exposed to an allergen. When you inhale an allergen, mast cells located in the nose and lungs release histamine. Histamine then attaches to receptors on nearby blood vessels, causing them to enlarge (dilate). Histamine also binds to other receptors located in nasal tissues, causing redness, swelling, itching and changes in the secretions.

Humus
The result of organic material being decomposed into a dark soil-like material that contains plant nutrients.

Hydrogenated fats
Also known as trans-fats and is a food additive. Hydrogenation is an artificial process that changes liquid vegetable oils into a more solid form in order to lengthen their shelf life. The process also increases the saturated fat content. Public health experts warn that these kinds of fats clog arteries and cause obesity.

IFOAM
The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements is an organisation which has set its own organic rules, and by which individual certification bodies can become accredited should their standards meet these.

IGF-1
Insulin-like Growth Factor-1, a naturally occurring hormone found in the milk of both cows and humans, which is important for both the regulation of normal physiology as well as a number of pathological states, including cancer. Cows given rBGH or rBST (synthetic hormones to increase milk supply) also produce more IGF-1 in their milk.

Irradiation
Exposure to ionizing radiation. Food irradiation is a synthetic process that is not allowed in organic production.

Kosher
Conforming to the dietary laws of Judaism. To be Kosher-certified, a Kosher certification company must inspect the production process from start to finish, checking every conveyor belt, container and piece of processing and packaging machinery to ensure that nothing non-kosher gets into the food.

Lindane
The pesticide Lindane is an organochloride insecticide and fumigant.

Locavore
A person who chooses to subsist on locally-grown foods. Committed locavores grow their own fruits and vegetables and do their own canning and pickling.

Made with organic ingredients
Products with at least 70% organic ingredients may say ‘Made With Organic Ingredients’ and list up to three ingredients.

MAS
Marker-assisted selection, a genomic technology that accelerates classical breeding. Scientists identify genes associated with traits such as yield, and then scan “crop relatives” for the presence of those genes and then cross-breed them, instead of splicing genes from an unrelated species into the genome.

Monoculture
The plantings of a single species. Examples of monocultures include lawns and most field crops, such as wheat or corn.

Mulch
A material such as straw or leaves applied to the soil to protect it from the weather or to suppress weed growth.

Mutagen
A substance that can alter genetic material resulting in changes that can be inherited.

Natural
The term “natural” is not well understood with respect to food products. It has often been used in conjunction with health food marketing, but has few regulatory controls to its use on products. “Natural” does not indicate that a product is organic, or that it is necessarily healthy.

No-till farming
A way of growing crops from year to year without disturbing the soil through tilling. Tilling is removes weeds, mixes in fertilizers, shapes the soil into rows, and prepares for seeding, but it also can lead to soil compaction, loss of organic matter, disruption of soil microbes, arthropods, and earthworms, and soil erosion where topsoil is blown or washed away. In no-till farming the soil is left intact and crop residues are left in the fields.

NPK
Abbreviation for Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), the three elements present in all commerical fertilizers sold thanks to Baron Justus von Liebig, a 19th-century German chemist, who discovered that plants rely on this trio of nutrients.

Organic food
Food that is produced without pesticides, fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, artificial additives, food coloring, ionizing radiation, and is not genetically modified in any way.

Organic
Grown or produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation or genetically modified organisms. Organic production promotes the use of sustainable systems, respecting ecological balance.

Organoleptic
Organoleptic refers to any sensory properties of a product, involving taste, colour, odour and feel. Organoleptic testing involves inspection through visual examination, feeling and smelling of products.

Paraben-free
Used to describe products that do not have parabens, which are chemical preservatives added to personal-care products for extending shelf life, and widely used in tens of thousand of types of cosmetic products today. They are suspected of presenting risks to the reproductive system. The four main parabens in use are methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butylparabens.

Perennial cropping
A farming system that uses alley cropping, intercropping and/or hedgerows to introduce biological diversity in lieu of crop rotation.

Peristalsis
Peristalsis is the rhythmic contraction of smooth muscles to propel contents through the digestive tract.

Permaculture
The practice of designing sustainable human habitats by following nature’s patterns.

Pesticide
A chemical used to control, repel or kill pests. Pesticides include the following: herbicides (for plants/weeds), insecticide (for insects), fungicide (for fungi), rodenticide (for rodents), acaricides (for mites), molluscicides (for snails) and fumigants (used to sterilize soil).

Phthalates
Chemical compounds that are used as plasticizers. These compounds cause health effects such as endocrine disruption, kidney or liver damage.

Poultice
The word poultice is derived from the Latin word pulta and the Greek word poltos, both meaning porridge. Also called a cataplasm. A soft moist mass about the consistency of cooked porridge that is spread on cloth and applied warm to create moist local heat or counter irritation.

Precautionary principle
The precautionary principle states that if an activity might cause severe or irreversible harm, it should not be carried out – despite the absence of full scientific certainty that harm would ensue.

rBGH
Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. Also called recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST). A genetically engineered hormone that is injected into dairy cows to increase their milk production. Cows that have been given rBGH have higher instances of mastitis, an infection of the udder, and require more antibiotics.

rBST
Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin. See rBGH.

Ruminants
Animals that have four-chambered stomachs, even-toed hooves, and chew their cud. Ruminant animals include cows, sheep, goats, antelope, deer, and camels.

Self-reliance
A self-reliant community or city exploits to the fullest its own local resources, assets, and capacities to satisfy its own food needs, thereby reducing as much as possible its dependence on imports.

Sewage sludge
Solid or semi-solid material generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment works, often used as a fertilizer. Sewage sludge is not permitted in organic production.

Silage
Livestock feed which is harvested and preserved for winter feeding by partial fermentation.

Stabiliser
A food additive use to maintain product consistency and provide a uniform texture.

Sustainable agriculture
A term used to define agricultural processes that operate within the limits and principles of natural ecosystems.

Vegan
Vegan products have no ingredients derived from animals, including dairy.

Vegetarian
Vegetarian products have no ingredients that are meat or fish.

Wild-crafted
Also appears as “wildcrafted” and sometimes referred to as “wild crops.” A plant gathered in the wild in its natural habitat from a site that is not maintained under cultivation or other agricultural management for manufacturing into a herbal supplement.