Open Source Seed Initiative: Sharing Seeds Without Borders

The Open Source Seed Initiative (http://www.opensourceseedinitiative.org/) was established on April 17, 2012 (the day designated as the International Day of Struggles in Defense of Peasants’ and Farmers’ Seeds), as a response to the increased patenting of seeds worldwide. The initiative was built on the fact that continued restrictions on seed posed by big companies may hinder the ability of improving crops and providing open access to genetic resources; in fact, it seems that only three companies account for about half of all commercial seed sales. Increasingly, patenting is used to enhance the power and control of these and similar companies over the seeds that feed the world. The aim of the initiative is to "chart a course for developing and releasing open source seeds". Strongly supporting biodiversity through traditional plant breeding,the initiative focuses on the legal aspects of sharing seeds and aims to develop a licensing which will be applied to the seeds allowing them to be freely shared; according to the OSSI website, "by attaching a free seed pledge to packets of open source seed, these genetic resources cannot be patented or otherwise legally protected, making them essentially available in perpetuity in a protected commons". The OSSI board of directors includes an academic sociologist, two plant breeders at public universities, a plant breeding student, a farmer-breeder and two representatives of prominent agricultural advocacy NGOs. OSSI is coordinated by Jack Kloppenburg, Claire Luby, and Irwin Goldman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The OSSI team includes scientists, citizens, plant breeders, farmers, seed companies, artists, and gardeners. Despite the fact that the initiatve is based in the U.S., it has already managed to achive international acknowledgement; not only there has been global interest for publication of the news and activities through various media, but also a practical interest as the initiative has already received over 300 orders for OSSI’s free seeds from 14 countries and the numbers are constantly growing. On top of that, it seems that there are similar initiatives all over the world; for example, India’s Centre for Sustainable Agriculture has already developed a plan for implementing an open source approach for managing the output of its participatory breeding program. You can find more information at the Open Source Seed Initiative website (http://www.opensourceseedinitiative.org/) Dr. Jack Kloppenburg, Professor in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology at the University of Wisconsin (Madison, USA) is one of the founders of the initiative. An interview with Dr. Kloppenburg, focusing on the Open Source Seed Initiative can be found in the Agro-Know blog (http://blog.agro-know.com/?p=2001).