Please help me speak academic - what is exogenous food?
June 7, 2013 6:40 AM   Subscribe

My google-fu fails me - all I can find are references that talk about research on endogenous and exogenous food, but none of them explain what on earth the terms mean.

I know that endo means from within, and exo means from without (I am a biologist), but when it comes to food, within and outside of what? Two options I can come up with are local food vs food from afar, or heritage (non-modified) food vs. genetically modified options.

Please hope me - I need to explain it to my boss.
posted by scrute to Science & Nature (15 answers total)
I think it's local/domestic vs distant/imported. (example) In what context are you seeing these terms?
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:51 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: How about food from within a culture and food from another? French people eating fajitas. Americans eating falafel.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:52 AM on June 7, 2013

I found this .pdf on "exogenous estrogens in food". Perhaps endogenous and exogenous food refers to foods that cause your body to produce hormones (endogenous) versus foods that contain hormones (exogenous).
posted by zinon at 6:58 AM on June 7, 2013

Response by poster: I love askmefi.

The context is in reference to a Food Centre at an academic institution that will focus on "research capacity in the production and marketing of endogenous and exogenous food products."

The context is one of the reasons that I had narrowed it down to local vs distant or heritage vs modified.
posted by scrute at 7:06 AM on June 7, 2013

endo/exo are inside/outside, and -gen- refers to creation, so "created inside" vs "created outside" are some possible meanings from etymology.
posted by Sunburnt at 7:34 AM on June 7, 2013

Best answer: Sounds like you should call the academic institution and ask what they mean by it. There's a chance that it will be either of those two things (or Cool Papa Bell's answer, which I hadn't even thought of but may well be the answer), and the possibilities are different enough that you really ought to get the actual meaning.
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 AM on June 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've seen endogenous/exogenous used in anthropology to talk about cultural practices done within/outside the community. So for example marriage. In societies which practice endogenous marriage, you're expected to marry someone from within your community. In societies which practice exogenous marriage, you're expected to leave your community in order to marry.

So, if it's in a social sciences or cultural studies context, my guess is that it's talking about, as Cool Papa Bell says, French people eating croissants vs. French people eating fajitas.
posted by Sara C. at 7:42 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Different field, but in simulation and modeling, exogenous inputs are inputs to the system which come from "outside", i.e. inputs that are in no way influenced by what is happening within your model. So, I would assume you are right and that it means food being brough in from outside of the area.
posted by molecicco at 7:42 AM on June 7, 2013

Or do a search for articles by the people involved that contain "exogenous" or "endogenous", if you know who they are.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:44 AM on June 7, 2013

Exogenous means "out of the system" and endogenous means "within the system".

So "exogenous food" would mean "out of the system in which the food is made/sourced/cooked". Beyond that, I have no idea what the phrase means.
posted by dfriedman at 7:48 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Could it be a technical term for a type of GMOs, specifically those that are implant with DNA from another organism to create a new version of a gene? I'm thinking along the lines of gentically-modified fish-DNA being added to ice cream to increase creaminess.

Along these lines, there is a biological definition of the word on Wikipedia that states that exogenous means "DNA introduced to cells via transfection or viral infection (transduction) is an exogenous factor."
posted by urbanlenny at 7:49 AM on June 7, 2013

They may be referring to endogenous/exogenous to the market, as in, independently sustainable or not. Like if an impoverished village can establish a self-sufficient system of growing and selling corn, that would be endogenous, but if they rely on aid or subsidies to receive milk, that would be exogenous.
posted by acidic at 8:12 AM on June 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and this abstract mentions "endogenous reference genes" for GMOs.

This one speaks of both endo- and exogenous genes in relation to Round-up Ready soybean seeds.
posted by urbanlenny at 10:46 AM on June 7, 2013

I think if it were about plant genetics that would be specified in the phrase - exogenous genetic material, for example.

Acidic might be on to something, though. I think it's economic.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:09 PM on June 7, 2013

Best answer: Another vote for Cool Papa Bell's interpretation - food that comes from inside a culture vs. from another culture.

(My background is linguistics, where the terms are essentially used this way, although this may be somewhat specific to the institution where I studied because Google isn't turning up much.)
posted by capricorn at 1:30 PM on June 7, 2013

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