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FOLLICLE: The structure on the ovary surface that nurtures a ripening oocyte. At ovulation the follicle produces estrogen until the oocyte is released, after which it becomes a yellowish protrusion on the ovary called the corpus luteum. (DM)

FOOD: Anything consumed or sold for human consumption. Compare FODDER. Food can also be any substance consumed by living organism. (DM)

FOOD ADDITIVE: A minor usually synthetic ingredient added to food to achieve a specific effect. In law, some of these compounds are legally excluded from being called this term for the purposes of food safety regulation. (DM)

FOOD AID: Food Aid is internationally distributed humanitarian famine relief and emergency food assistance, for example from non-government organizations (NGOs) or the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP). Food aid should be deployed directly to where it can save lives, independent of economic sanctions or other politics. Care should be taken that food is not redirected to the wealthy or the armed forces. Care should be taken not to undercut local markets or encourage a handout economy. Nutrition and cultural aspects are important, and some African countries have rejected genetically modified foods. Food aid should include local capacity building in agriculture and technology, development assistance and establishment of self-reliance and long term food security. (See CAPACITY BUILDING, FAMINE, FOOD CRISIS, NUTRITION) (MP)

FOOD CHAIN: = energy transfer from plants to top carnivore through a few intermediary organisms- the act of repeated eating and being eaten. (JA)

FOOD CRISIS: A state of emergency in which populations are at risk of death, disease and panic due to dire shortages of food (i.e. famine) or food contamination (e.g. BSE outbreak). (See BOVINE SPONGIFORM ENCEPHALOPATHY, FAMINE, FOOD AID, MALNUTRITION, WATER CRISIS) (MP)

FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA): a US-based agency within the Department of Health and Human Services established to set safety and quality standards for foods, drugs, cosmetics and other household consumer products. The FDA's basic tasks are research, inspection and licensing of drugs and food-stuffs for manufacturing and distribution. (IP)

FOOD WEB: The conceptual web of food connections between organisms in an ecological community. Primary producers create organic matter and are eaten by grazers (herbivores), which are in turn eaten by carnivores. Formerly, this was called a food chain, but recognition that such links are often nonlinear lead ecologists to change this to food web. (See AUTOTROPHS, HETEROTROPHS, TROPHIC INTERACTIONS) (RW)

FORCE FEEDING: Coercive feeding, usually artificial feeding. (DM)

FORENSIC DNA ANALYSIS: Powerful tool for identification of individuals in forensic cases. The DNA analyses are performed on semen, blood stains, hair roots or any other biological evidence. Different DNA polymorphic regions can be analysed: VNTRs, STRs, mitochondrial D-loop region (mtDNA replication region). Current techniques involve automated fluorescent detection of multiplex sets, consisting of a group of STRs differing in size profiles, that are co-amplified and separated on polyacrilamide gels and read on automatic laser beam analysers. (GK)

FORENSIC MEDICINE: The application of medical knowledge to questions of law and law enforcement. (See DNA FINGERPRINTING, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRY). (DM)

FORENSIC PSYCHIATRY: The application of psychiatric knowledge to questions of law and law enforcement. (DM)

FORENSIC SCIENCE: An applied trans-disciplinary science to study criminal and social behaviour with the application of biological, biochemical and physio-chemical techniques. E.g. use of DNA finger printing to determine the human identity with a victim, the time of murder inferring the patterns of breeding in insects. (JA)

FOREST: Large area of land dominated by trees. Massive deforestation has taken place in many countries to the extent that in only South America and Africa were there significant amounts of native forest left at the start of the twenty first century, and these were rapidly being removed. The full ecological consequences of widespread deforestation are still unknown but certainly include soil erosion and probably include significant, undesirable and difficult to reverse climate change. (MR)

FORMALISM a deontological (from Gk deon meaning duty) ethical system where the theory holds that an action is right if it accords with a moral rule, and wrong if it violates such a rule.

FOSSIL FUELS: Fuels derived from the fossilized remains of plants and animals. For example, coal is the remains of primeval forests; petroleum and natural gas are the remains of prehistoric animals and plant; peat is partly decayed plant matter in an early stage of coal formation. Fossil fuels are precious non-renewable resources. (See GREENHOUSE EFFECT, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT). (IP)

FOSSIL RECORD: (Latin fossus 'dug up'). Objects such as the remains or traces - like foot prints, burrows, trails referred to as 'trace fossils' - of fauna and flora which have been embedded, typically, in shale or sandstone which prevented their decay. Since fossils prove the previous existence of extinct organisms, the fossil record lends strong support for the theory of evolution, and is also useful to the geologist in revealing former environmental conditions in geological time (geochronology). The presence of certain fossils can be used as a guide to the relative age of the rock stratum or bed in which it is found; that is, to correlate the sequence of stratified formation in different parts of the world. (See EVOLUTION, FOSSIL FUELS). (IP)

FOUNDER EFFECT: Evolutionary adaptation and speciation which results in rapid change (punctuated equilibrium) due to sudden mass mortality or genetic partitioning, for example geographical separation, natural disasters or other evolutionary bottlenecks. (See EVOLUTION, MASS EXTINCTION, NATURAL HAZARD, PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM, SPECIATION) (MP)

FOUR FREEDOMS: Peace objectives which were enunciated in 1941 by Franklin Roosevelt during the Second World War when the US Government was playing a major diplomatic role, in his 1941 'Four Freedoms' speech. The well-known four freedoms are 'freedom of speech', 'freedom of worship', 'freedom from economic want' and 'freedom from aggression'. Nowadays a fifth freedom can well be added - 'freedom from excess fertility'. (See FREEDOM). (IP+MP)

FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS: Philosophical teachings of the enlightened Buddha: 1. life has omnipresent suffering; 2. suffering involves a chain of causes including desire and selfishness; 3. suffering can be removed by removal its causes such as desire; and 4. there is a path towards this end (the ‘Eightfold Path’). (See BUDDHA, BUDDHISM, EIGHTFOLD PATH, MIDDLE WAY) (MP)

FRAMESHIFT: Mutation that results when the genetic code is read beginning at the second or third base of a codon. (DM)

FRANKENSTEIN FACTOR: Dr Frankenstein is the character in Mary Shelly (died 1851)'s novel of the same name who creates a monster whom he is unable to control. In the 1990s the term 'The Frankenstein factor' became used to refer to a widely felt fear that GENETIC ENGINEERING (q.v.) and other instances of modern BIOTECHNOLOGY (q.v.) would lead to unanticipated and irreversible harms. (MR)

FRATERNAL TWINS: See Twins/Twinning.

FRAUD: The act of deliberately misrepresenting or inventing information in order to gain personal advantage like wealth, fame. (IP)

FREE MARKET: An economic system (or lack of system) in which uncontrolled competition rules, only the fit (in terms of success in marketing goods, services, or one's own body, survive, and the main motive is profit. The profit may be money, or material goods or food (as may be observed when chickens fight over a piece of food). Or it may be pride, honours, fame or the like. Many people have been convinced that the fall of the Soviet Union was proof of the evils of socialism and the gospel truth of free market ideology, although there may have been other causes such as subversive activity on the part of Western countries. (FL)

FREE MARKET MEDICINE: An ideology which encourages the profit motive in medicine. An extreme version would allow for people to be treated only if they have the ability to pay, although some doctors in such an environment might be willing to treat some people for free if it serves some research purpose. Medical systems which began with an ideology of universal, egalitarian medical care, such as the National Health Service in the United Kingdom and the Sick Funds in Israel, now are mixed with varying degrees of free market medicine in the form of private clinics, fee charging for special treatment on the part of physicians even during their work hours in the national medical system, and high prices (or special insurance policies) for certain treatments and medications, such as expensive drugs, certain kinds of preventive medicine, immunizations for foreign travel, etc: with competition among providers for offering the most attractive insurance packages. It can be debated whether a physician in a free market system can adhere to all of the recognized principles of bioethics, especially the principle of beneficence. For it is questionable whether a physician can act entirely for the benefit of the patient if the patient's ability to pay determines the quality and quantity of treatment. (FL)

FREEDOM: The absence of external constraints on the individual's right and ability to act and make decisions. (DM)

FRESHWATER: Water that is not salty. As an adjective, of, relating to, or living in water that is not salty. Potable (drinkable) freshwater is one of the most critically limiting resources for many human communities; the number of people living with water scarcity is already large and is expected to increase rapidly in the coming decades in many parts of the world. (RW)

FREUD, SIGMUND: (1856-1930). Austrian physician and pioneer of psychoanalysis. Freud's major contribution can be broadly summarized as the exploration of the unconscious mind and his coining of the term 'id' to define the true unconscious representing the individual's self-preserving tendencies and instincts. Freud claimed that interpretation of dreams is an important factor in psychoanalysis. By studying the dreams of his patients, Freud crystallized his theory that nearly all cases of neurosis were due to repression of sexual desires. His theory was published in the influential text 'Three Treatises on the Sexual Theory' in 1905. Freud's influence in the 19-20th centuries cannot be underestimated as almost every branch of thought, particularly in education, was affected by the theories of psychoanalysis. (See DREAM). (IP)

FRIENDLY FIRE: Euphemistic term describing ammunition or explosives inadvertently causing injury or death to soldiers and personnel from the same military alliance. (See COLLATERAL DAMAGE, EUPHEMISM) (MP)

FRINGE-DWELLERS: Inhabitants of shanty towns living on the edge of mainstream society and, typically belonging to minority or ethnic groups bound by poverty and marginalization. (IP)


FRONTAL LOBE OR PREFRONTAL CORTEX that part of the cerebral hemisphere which houses the will to initiate planning make purposeful use of the imagination and solve problems by reasoning. (See LEUKOTOMY) (IP)



FUNGAL TOXINS: The fungi Fusarium can produce a toxin known as deoxynivalenol or DON. Fungal infection of food-crops (such as wheat) can harbor DON. Unfavorable weather conditions can strongly influence the concentration of DON in wheat. In animals , exposure to high concentrtion of DON has adverse effect on the immune system, fertility and in embryo development. ( JA).

FUNGI: One of the five taxonomic kingdoms (along with Animalia, Plantae, Protista and Monera), the Fungi are a diverse group of heterotrophic organisms with a rigid cell wall. Lacking chloroplasts, the fungus obtains its nutrients from mineral absorption through its hyphae and mycelium. Fungi perform an important ecological function as decomposers. Fungi include mushrooms, toadstools, bracket fungi, lichens, water molds and unicellular organisms and range from edible to poisonous. (See DECOMPOSITION, LICHENS, PLANTAE, PSILOCYBIN) (MP)


FUTILITY: The uselessness of medical intervention in preventing a patient's death. (DM)

FUTURE 500 is a network of people and companies aiming at forging a new knowledge-based economics that can expand the capacity of the human mind. In 1998 Kiuchi, chair of "Future 500", introduced three new categories into company’s accounts - pollution intensity, resource productivity, and quality of life. (IP+Dm tocheck)

FUTUROLOGY: Scientific study and prediction of future trends, and projections of technological progress, environmental change and the future human condition. Some classic works of futurology have included Alvin Toffler ‘Future Shock’ (1970), Club of Rome ‘Limits to Growth’ (1972), K. Eric Drexler ‘Engines of Creation’ (1986), Marvin Minsky ‘Mind Children’, Michio Kaku ‘Visions’ (1998), Lee Silver ‘Remaking Eden’ (1998) and Frank Tipler ‘Physics of Immortality’. Futurologists have traditionally been somewhat optimistic in their time-frames (e.g. George Orwell ‘1984), but the accelerating pace of change will bring current technological predictions more rapidly. New and dangerous spaces of possibility have recently been opened up by new advances in genetic engineering, genetic medicine, cloning, cybernetic nerve-computer interfaces, cyborgs, organization of cyberspace, artificial neural networks, networked sensor arrays, smart dust, miniaturization of robotics, autonomous weapons, molecular electronics, nanotechnology, and evolutionary approaches to artificial life. Insight into single-technology possibilities has grown rapidly, however professional specialization has not allowed for proper consideration of their potentially dramatic impacts in combination. Success rates can be patchy if projected too far into the future along assumed curves which may be subject to sudden or unexpected interferences. This significance may be crucial to human survival and wellbeing, and despite skepticism, futurology is an essential and underrated component of dealing with the progress of ethically fraught technologies. (See ACCELERATING PACE OF CHANGE, ESCHATOLOGY, HUMAN EXTINCTION, SCIENCE FICTION, TECHNOLOGY, UTOPIA) (MP)

FUZZY LOGIC: The operations and mathematics of ‘fuzzy sets’ and ‘fuzzy systems’. Unlike the constancy of classical sets, fuzzy sets have varying membership of the set. Fuzzy logic is a recognition of the ‘degrees of gray’ and ‘fuzziness’ inherent to our models and assumptions of the real world. It allows flexibility in the face of ambiguity, and fuzzy logic programming may help computers to think a bit more like humans. (See HEURISTICS, UNCERTAINTY) (MP)






























GAIA: The Greek goddess of the Earth; 2. an hypothesis proposed by James Lovelock that posits the Earth behaves as a super-organism with multiple feedbacks among organisms and physical processes regulating climate and Earth surface conditions to within a relatively narrow range conducive to life. Lovelock is an English atmospheric scientist, who presented in 1969 his revolutionary Gaia hypothesis - a hypothesis still the subject of considerable scientific interest and debate (see GAIA HYPOTHESIS). (IP+RW)

GAIA HYPOTHESIS: The Gaia theory of the Earth is a post-Darwinian evolutionary theory, which posits a set of homeostatic mechanisms as devices for self-maintenance of the Earth’s environment. In other words, instead of passively riding the planet, living things became fully-fledged symbiotic partners in the shaping of the Earth, its rocks, waters and soil. The hypothesis challenges the reductionist view of the world by proposing that the world is one living system where living things transform each other in ways that actively maintain optimal conditions for the maintenance of life. The essence of this proposition is that the physical and chemical conditions of the surface of the earth, the atmosphere and the oceans, are continuously kept fit and comfortable for life by the presence of life itself. This view is in direct challenge to the conventional Darwinian wisdom which holds that life adapted to the existing planetary conditions as they evolved. However, the theory is supported to the extent where it can now be demonstrated, with the aid of numerical models and computers, that a diverse web of predators and prey facilitates a more stable and stronger ecosystem than a few more self-contained species, or a shorter food chain of very limited mix. Colloquially, the sum of a series of complex systems (biodiversity) have properties and powers much greater than the sum of its parts. What becomes immediately evident is that the Gaia hypothesis is a powerful challenge to our ethnocentric view of the world and, if indeed, living things and the planet interact as one, we have to reassess our environmental responsibilities in this context. We have to take care not to violate the principles of sustainability which address the needs of the biosphere and the global commons of air, water and soil; we have to become fully participating partners within ecosystems where diversity, not unity, is the basis of health (see ANIMISM, BIOGEOCHEMICAL CYCLE).(IP)

GAME THEORY: ‘Game theory’ is the study of moves and counter-moves, and choice of strategic behavior such as cooperation or conflict. The field of study was developed by John von Neumann and Oskar Morgenstern from a history in games of chance, strategy games and war gaming. Standard game theories include ‘chicken’, ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ and ‘minimax’, and military game theories include ‘STAGE’ (‘Simulation of Total Atomic Global Exchange’) or the US Army’s ‘TACSPIEL’ (divisional tactics) and ‘AGILE’ (counter-insurgency). The ‘game’ is defined by the rules governing moves, examples including conflict, coordination, cooperation, coalition and positive-sum games. ‘Game theory’ is a scary term in some ways, in a world where actors treat internet, economic and military affairs as a big ‘game’ whilst safely shielded from the real-life consequences of their actions. (See BOOLEAN LOGIC, FUZZY LOGIC, HEURISTICS, PRISONER’S DILEMMA, STRATEGY, UNCERTAINTY) (MP)

GAMETE INTRAFALLOPIAN TRANSFER (GIFT): A technique of medically assisted conception in which mature oocytes are surgically removed from a woman's body and then reintroduced, together with sperm, through a catheter threaded into the fallopian tubes, where it is hoped fertilization will take place. (IP)

GAMETE: Mature male or female reproductive cell with a haploid set of chromosomes (in humans there are 23 chromosomes); that is, a sperm or ovum. (IP)

GAMETOPATHY disease of gametes (sperm and eggs) resulting in physiological disturbances (Gk gamos meaning marriage and pathos meaning disease). (IP)


GATT: Abbreviation for "general agreement on trade and tariffs" aimed at reducing border barriers and restrictions. Also called free trade agreement and is opposed to protectionism. (IP)


GEEP: Animal (strictly a CHIMERA (q.v.)) formed by fusing together Goat and sheep cells. (MR)

GENBANK: An organization located in Alamas, USA which is repository of DNA sequence databases. (See BIOINFORMATICS) (JA)

GENDER: (Latin genus 'kind') the classification of the sex of a person roughly corresponding to masculine, feminine, ambivalent or neuter according to the demonstration of the continuum from maleness to femaleness. (See HOMOSEXUAL, SEX, TRANSSEXUAL). (IP)

GENE: The fundamental physical and functional unit of heredity. A gene is an ordered sequence of nucleotides located in a particular position on a particular chromosome. Length of the triple code in DNA - determines the sequence of amino acids in a protein. (See GENE EXPRESSION). (DM, JA)

GENE CONSTRUCT: A gene sequence prepared under laboratory conditions for transgenic transfer where the desired characteristics will be expressed. (JA)

GENE CHIP: An array of probes of nucleic acid on a chip for rapid assays of genetic variation, and mutated DNA sequences in an organism. Gene chips may allow for the diagnosis of all the genes of a genome in one test, and analysis is done by computer technology. (DM)

GENE DIAGNOSTIC TESTING: The presence of a faulty gene can be detected by techniques using the results on the gene structure e.g. association of BRCA1 with breast cancer. (JA).

GENE EXPRESSION: The process by which a gene's blueprint is converted into the structures present and operating in the cell. Expressed genes include those that are transcribed into mRNA and then translated into protein and those that are transcribed into RNA but not translated into protein (e.g., transfer and ribosomal RNAs). Appearance of a phenotypic characteristic specified by a gene like the shape of a fruit/color of a seed (DM, JA)

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