(Photo: Tata-Cornell Institute)
It’s very important to know the meaning and understand the concepts of many terms, abbreviations, and acronyms relevant to the food and agriculture topics to fully understand the debates, talks, and issues on food and agriculture.
Some terms definition are easy to follow but the concepts behind it can be overwhelming to be fully understood. Here is a list of some of the most used terms on food and agriculture topics with its simple definitions that you should learn.
Right to food
The right to food is a human right for people to feed themselves in dignity. It means that food is sufficient and people can access it and it meets their individual’s dietary needs.
Food security is a measure of the physical, social, and economical access by all people, at all times to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for a healthy life.
Food safety is the fitness of a food for human consumption. Food safety describes the handle, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent food-borne illness. The principles of food safety is the prevention of contamination in food that could cause food poisoning.
Food loss is the edible amount of postharvest food that is available for human consumption but isn’t consumed for many reason. Food loss occurs along the food supply chain from harvest up to, but not including, the retail level. The cause such as cooking loss, loos from mold and pests, inadequate climate control, and food waste.
Food waste is a component of food loss that occurs when an edible item goes unconsumed. It can occurs at the retail level: discarding food, and consumption level: plate waste.
Agriculture is the practice and science of farming, including growing crops and raising animals to produce food and other products necessary and useful to humans. Agriculture is a means of life and a way of life for farmers and other people involved in the industry.
Monoculture is the agricultural practice of producing and growing a single crop or livestock species, breed, or variety in a farming system or field at a time. On the other hand, polyculture is when there is more than one crop or livestock grown in the same space at the same time.
Urban agriculture, urban gardening, or urban farming is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food products in and around urban areas.
Seeds is a plant structure that develops from an ovule and has as parts an embryo enclosed in a seed coat.
Manure is the refuse from stables and barnyards including both animal excreta and straw or other litter.
Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the anther to the stigma.
Fertilization is the union of pollen with an egg that forming an embryo.
Organic fertilizer is any fertilizer material containing plant nutrients in combination with carbon.
Irrigation is the application of water to soil for the purpose of plant production.
Dry land farming
Dry land farming is the practice of crop production without the use of irrigation.
Livestock is any domestic animal kept or produced primarily for farm, ranch, or market purposes. Livestock includes beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and hogs.
Poultry is any domestic birds raised for eggs and meat. Poultry includes chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese.
Free range is the condition when animals are given daily access to the outdoors but aren’t raised primarily on pasture.
Grassfed is the condition when animals only eat grasses from start to finish.
Slaughterhouse is a place where animals marketed for meat are killed.
Biosecurity is a set of preventive measures to reduce the risk of infectious diseases transmission in crops and livestock. Biosecurity have a direct relevance to the sustainability of agriculture, food safety and security, and environmental protection.
Genetically modified organisms
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) is an organism produced through genetic modification.
Antibiotics is the medicine used to treat illness caused by bacteria. Antibiotics are added routinely in confined livestock operations to animal feed to increase weight gain and inhibit illnesses caused by close quarters.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is simply the ability of a microbe to resist the effects of medication that once could successfully treat the microbe. AMR is a major global threat of increasing concern on food safety and food security to human and animal health.
Hydroponics is the growing of plants in water containing the essential growth elements.
Aquaculture is the cultivation of aquatic plants and animals for food and other purposes.
Fisheries is the industry, occupation, or season of taking fish or other marine animals such as shrimp, sponges, or seals. Now, marine and aquatic ecosystems are under stress due to climate change, fishing pressure, and pollution from various human activities.
Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is a broad term that captures a wide variety of fishing activity. IUU fishing still remains one of the biggest threats to marine ecosystems. The increasing demand on fishery products and the declining amount of fishery resources make the incidence of IUU fishing a great concern for fish sustainability.
Forestry is the science of creating, using, managing, repairing, and conserving forests, woodlands, and other forest-related resources for human, animal, and environmental benefits. Agroforestry on the other hand, combines agriculture and forestry technologies to create more productive and sustainable land-use systems.
Land degradation is a process in which the value of the biophysical environment is affected by a combination of human-induced processes acting upon the land. During the 20th century, land degradation has accelerated due to the increased pressures of agricultural and livestock production, deforestation, and extreme weather events.
Deforestation, clearing, clearcutting, or clearance is the clearing and removal of a forest, or portion of a forest, to convert it to non-forest use, such as a farm, ranches, or urban use. Deforestation occurs mostly in tropical rainforests. It affects the people and animals where the trees are being cut.
Desertification is a type of land degradation in dryland ecosystems by variation in climate and human activities involving loss of biological productivity. Such declines may be resulted from climate change, overgrazing, deforestation, political instability, unsustainable practices, and many others.
Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the Global Goals are a collection of 17 global goals designed to be a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. It is adopted by all UN Member States in 2015. The SDGs is a universal call to action to end poverty, ensure peace and prosperity, and protect the planet by 2030.
Zero Hunger is goal number of Sustainable Development Goals. It’s a pledge to end world hunger, improve nutrition, achieve food security, and promote sustainable agriculture.
Agroecology is the design, management, and development of sustainable agroecosystems based on the application of ecological principles while considering social, economic, and cultural factors of farming communities.
Sustainable Food and Agriculture
Sustainable Food and Agriculture is a vision and an integrated approach developed by the FAO to sustainability across agriculture, forestry, and fisheries. There are 5 principles of Sustainable Food and Agriculture. This unified perspective taking into account social, economic, and environmental factors, and also country and community levels of adaptation to ensure it is locally applicable.
The Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is an approach developed by the FAO that helps to guide actions needed to transform and reorient agricultural systems to support development and ensure food safety and security in a changing climate.
Organic agriculture is a production management system which promotes, enhances, and sustains agroecosystem health, including biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. Organic agriculture combines science and tradition to benefit the shared environment and promote a good quality of life.
Organic farming is a farming method or system of crop and livestock production that involves much more than choosing not to use pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, GMOs, and growth hormones.
Sustainable land management
Sustainable land management is a process for the management of land resources that meets present needs without compromising future ecosystem services and land productivity.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is a specialized agency of the UN that leads global efforts to eradicate world hunger. The FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations from developed and developing countries meet as equals to discuss, debate, and negotiate arguments and policy.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is a distinct group of small island developing countries that tend to share similar specific social, economic, and environmental problems and difficulties. Currently, the UN DESA acknowledges 57 small island developing states in three geographic regions: the Caribbean, the Pacific, and the AIMS (Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea).
World Food Summit
The World Food Summit is a world meeting convened by the FAO that examine the progress made in eradicating world hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition. The recent 2019 World Food Summit is held on 29-30 August 2019 in Copenhagen, Denmark with more than 250 international participants spanning 45 countries attending.
Codex Alimentarius or simply a “food code” is a set of internationally recognized standards, guidelines, codes of practice, and other recommendations relating to foods, including food production and food safety. It is adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC).
The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2019 is a report from the FAO about moving forward on food loss and waste reduction. It provides insights into how much, where, and why food is lost at different stages of the food supply chain.The report also calls for decisions for an effective reduction and offers new ways to measure progress.
The Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) is a worldwide searchable database of information about breeds and other resources on livestock diversity. It is maintained and developed by the FAO.
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• Maryland Cooperative Extension. “Agriculture Terms & Definitions.” University of Maryland. →
• National Agricultural Library. “Glossary of Agricultural Terms.” United States Department of Agriculture. →
• Seacoast Harvest. “Glossary of Agricultural Terms.” →