Glossary of terms

Here you will find definitions of terms used in resources on the Foodsource website. You will also find these definitions on the right-hand side within chapters. If you have any suggestions for new glossary items, let us know here.

2 (1) | A (13) | B (6) | C (15) | D (6) | E (8) | F (12) | G (4) | H (3) | I (7) | L (5) | M (12) | N (7) | O (4) | P (9) | R (7) | S (10) | T (1) | U (2) | W (4) | Y (1) | Z (2)

Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis

Sensitivity and uncertainty analysis are an integral part of any modelling process. Sensitivity analysis varies the possible values of input variables to a model in order to understand the difference that these assumptions make to results and conclusions that can be drawn. Uncertainty analysis investigates the potential effects of lack of knowledge or potential errors in the model design.


Silting refers to the transport and deposition of sediment on the riverbed, which changes the dynamics of the water flow and can affect aquatic ecosystems.

Soy Moratorium

The Brazilian Soy Moratorium (SoyM) is a multi-stakeholder initiative set up in 2006 by Greenpeace, the Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (ABIOVE), and the National Association of Grain Exporters (ANEC). It was later joined by many other companies, civil society organisations, and the Brazilian government. Signatories to the moratorium take on the voluntary commitment not to buy soybeans grown on land in the Amazon that was deforested after 22 July 2008. The soy moratorium was initially renewed annually but extended in 2019 for an indefinite period. The moratorium has caused deforestation in the Amazon to decline to about one half to one third of the rate before the moratorium. Recent years, however, have seen an increase in deforestation in the Amazon. Deforestation levels were particularly high in the summer of 2019 due to an exceptional increase in forest fires. Only a small amount of the soy exported from the Brazilian Amazon is handled by traders who did not sign the Moratorium.

Specialist species

A specialist species is a plant or animal species that is able to thrive in only a limited variety of environmental conditions, or that has a limited diet. Unlike endemic species, populations of the same specialist species may be present at different geographical locations around the world.


Stunting is a medical condition where childhood growth and development is impaired as a result of inadequate nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Children are defined as stunted if their height for their age is abnormally low. Its effects can lead to an underdeveloped brain, poor cognition and educational attainment, as well as a higher risk of nutrition-related chronic diseases later in life.

Subsistence farming

Subsistence farming refers to rearing animals and growing crops only for your own consumption, without having any surplus to take to market as a source of cash income.

Substitution effect

The substitution effect in economics refers to the idea that as prices increase or as a product becomes scarce, people will replace such items with substitutes that are cheaper or easier to access. In the context of diets, substitution effects refer to the changes in the environmental footprint of a person's diet, according to the relative impact of foods that are substituted for one another.

Sustainable intensification

Sustainable intensification is a recently developed concept that is understood in different ways by its critics and supporters. A common understanding is that it denotes the principle of increasing or maintaining the productivity of agriculture on existing farmland while at the same time, reducing its environmental impacts. Understood in this way, SI designates a goal for the development of agricultural systems but does not, a priori, favour any particular agronomic route to achieve it. It may involve the intensification of different types of agricultural inputs (e.g. of knowledge, biotechnologies, labour, machinery) and apply these to different forms of agriculture (e.g. livestock or arable; agroecological or conventional). Forms of intensification that can be called sustainable intensification must lower environmental impacts and land use, relative to yields. However, for some, to merit the term ‘sustainable’ social, economic, and ethical criteria must also be considered.

System boundaries

System boundaries are subjective boundaries that define what is included within the system under analysis (and so counted) and what is external to the system (and so not counted). System boundaries have multiple dimensions, including what stages are focused on (e.g. production, distribution), what inputs and outputs are measured (e.g. land, greenhouse gases), what geographic locations are included, and more.


Turbidity refers to the amount of light that can pass through water (i.e. its cloudiness), as a result of particles that are suspended within the fluid. It can vary naturally depending on location, but can have detrimental impacts on ecosystems if caused by human activity. For this reason, it is often used as an indicator of water quality.

Ultra-processed food (UPF)

Ultra-processed food (UPF) generally refers to one of the four categories of the NOVA food classification (see below) and are used loosely to refer to snacks and fast foods. NOVA describes UPFs as ‘industrial formulations’ of food products, typically mass-produced, that contain few ‘natural’ ingredients. Advocates of NOVA point out that UPFs consist of many additives and food-derived ingredients such as whey, protein isolates, and invert sugar, which are produced and combined through processes that are uncommon in domestic kitchens. They understand these foods to be designed so as to be so appealing that they displace the consumption of healthier, less processed foods, thereby generating high profits for their manufacturers. Foods in the UPF category include biscuits, mass-produced buns and breads, sweetened cereals, margarines and spreads, packaged snacks, ice cream, flavoured yogurts, soft drinks, powdered meals, ready-made meals, and instant sauces and stocks. Proponents of the concept have argued that the consumption of UPF is the primary driver of the global ‘pandemic’ of overweight and obesity while contributing to non-communicable diseases such as metabolic syndrome and certain cancers. It has been argued that the production and consumption of UPFs undermine social and environmental sustainability while perpetuating unequal power dynamics in the food system. Opponents of the concept have contested these claims. They argue that the concept is imprecise and groups together foods with different nutritional characteristics.


Undernutrition refers to deficiencies of a particular component of food, usually due to insufficient intake and/or absorption of that component. This usually refers to energy (often measured in calories) or macronutrients (such as protein, carbohydrates, or fat), but can also refer to micronutrients (vitamins or minerals).

Water footprint

Water footprint is a metric that quantifies the amount of water used to produce each of the goods and services we use. It allows these goods and services to be compared in terms of their water impact, and so to the impact on limited water resources of consumption by individuals, organisations, and even nation states. Water footprints incorporate all the water used – i.e. unable to be used again due to evaporation or removal in products – across the full lifecycle of a produce from production through to consumption, including all inputs to production (e.g. feed crops used in pork production). It has three components: (1) green water - rainwater used in soils; (2) blue water - freshwater sources; (3) grey water - water amount needed to dilute pollution to safe levels.


The World Health Assembly is the forum through which the World Health Organisation is governed.

Wildlife-friendly farming

Wildlife-friendly farming, while a fairly informal term, generally refers to an approach to farming that aims to support both food production and the conservation of biodiversity on farmland. Wildlife-friendly farming is associated with the use of reduced chemical and fertiliser inputs and the preservation of native vegetation (e.g. flowers, trees, and bushes) on or around farmland. Those who use the term tend to equate wildlife-friendly farming with a land sharing approach. Related although not synonymous terms include organic farming and agroecology.