Open Source Seed Initiative Launches ‘Free Seed’ Pledge

OSSIThis morning the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) is hosting a rally on the campus of the University of Wisconsin – Madison to kick off the release of 29 plant varieties under a new open-source pledge. The initiative is inspired by open source software, and has the intention of protecting seed from becoming proprietary products. The event is being held in solidarity with the International Day of Struggle in Defense of Peasants’ and Farmers’ Seeds.

OSA has participated in OSSI for the last three years to explore alternatives to restrictive intellectual property practices in plant breeding. Utility patents and onerous licensing agreements have hindered innovation in the public and private seed sector, fostering concentration of market power, and removing valuable plant genetics from the pool of resources breeders rely on. Many breeders find themselves restricted in how they use protected varieties or traits, and sometimes are outright prohibited from using them.

The following pledge is printed on every OSSI seed packet:

“This Open Source Seed Pledge is intended to ensure your freedom to use the seed contained herein in any way you choose, and to make sure those freedoms are enjoyed by all subsequent users. By opening this packet, you pledge that you will not restrict others’ use of these seeds and their derivatives by patents, licenses, or any other means. You pledge that if you transfer these seeds or their derivatives you will acknowledge the source of these seeds and accompany your transfer with this pledge.”

OSSI PRESS RELEASE

On the campus of the University of Wisconsin this Thursday, April 17, members of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) will rally to share seed with each other and with the community. They will then lead a pledge to keep that seed freely available to anyone who wants to use it.

The plant breeders, seed companies, and sustainability advocates who are part of OSSI chose April 17, designated as the International Day of Struggles in Defense of Peasants’ and Farmers’ Seeds, to take action in response to the increased patenting of seeds worldwide.

Today, only three companies (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta) 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.

Inspired by the free and open source software movement that has provided alternatives to proprietary software, OSSI was created to free the seed – that is, to make sure that the genes in at least some seed can never be locked away from use by intellectual property rights.

To that end, OSSI has developed an Open Source Seed Pledge that commits anyone receiving OSSI seed to keep that seed – and any derivatives bred from that seed – freely available for use by others. Explains OSSI member and Wild Garden Seed breeder Frank Morton, “That’s free as in speech, free as in liberated, not free as in beer!”

The OSSI Pledge also incorporates a commitment to acknowledging the breeders of its varieties. Too often seeds are sold without attribution or credit to those who originally developed them. People and companies sharing OSSI released varieties will pledge to share the origin stories of the seeds they acquire, use, and distribute.

At the event in front of the Microbial Sciences building on the UW-Madison campus, OSSI speakers will explain why they are pledging to freely share the seeds they have developed. OSSI seed will be distributed to the crowd, and people will be asked to read aloud the Open Source Seed Pledge that is printed on every OSSI seed packet.

Among the 29 varieties of 14 species being shared on Thursday are such cultivars as Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled cress from Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed in Oregon, Full Pint malting barley from Pat Hayes of Oregon State University, Midnight Lightning zucchini from Vermont’s High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Sovereign carrots from UW’s own Irwin Goldman. Most of the OSSI varieties are available as organic seed and were bred with organic growers and gardeners in mind.

Sets of OSSI’s free seeds will subsequently be mailed to prominent decision-makers and influential individuals such as First Lady Michelle Obama, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Senator Jon Tester, and author Michael Pollan. OSSI is spreading the word that what the world needs is more free and open source seeds, not more patented and indentured seeds!

Says Tom Stearns, president of High Mowing, “We are proud to offer these seeds to the farmers and breeders of the world in order to spread diversity and ensure a stable, sustainable local source of food for farmers and gardeners. These seed varieties and new strains arising from them can never be owned by anyone but the public and that is important to us as a commercial seed company with a social mission at its core.”

When seeds are patented, they cannot be saved or replanted or shared by farmers and gardeners. And because there is no standard research exemption for patented material, plant breeders at universities and small seed companies usually cannot use patented seed to create the new crop varieties that should be sustainable alternatives to the genetically narrow, conventional cultivars of the big transnationals.

According to Irwin Goldman, Professor of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a founding member of OSSI, “In order to respond effectively to the challenges of improving our crops to feed our rapidly growing population, farmers and plant breeders will need access to genetic resources. That access is becoming increasingly limited by controls associated with seed licensing. We would like to create a new conduit for seeds that would allow for a pool of genetic resources that are freely available for all to use, share, save, replant, and breed.”

OSSI members hope to initiate a movement for free sharing of seed across the country and around the world. Adds Tom Stearns, “OSSI is itself a seed that we have planted, and it will be really interesting to see where it goes, what conversations it starts and what new relationships it creates.”

As a follow up to the April 17 rally, OSSI plans to hold an Open Source Seed Teach-In at 7:00pm on Tuesday, May 6, on the UW campus.

For more information on the Open Source Seed Initiative
go to www.opensourceseedinitiative.org
or visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/opensourceseedinitiative or contact
Irwin Goldman (ilgoldma@wisc.edu)
Jack Kloppenburg (jrkloppe@wisc.edu)

This Open Source Seed Pledge is printed on every OSSI seed packet:

“This Open Source Seed Pledge is intended to ensure your freedom to use the seed contained herein in any way you choose, and to make sure those freedoms are enjoyed by all subsequent users. By opening this packet, you pledge that you will not restrict others’ use of these seeds and their derivatives by patents, licenses, or any other means. You pledge that if you transfer these seeds or their derivatives you will acknowledge the source of these seeds and accompany your transfer with this pledge.”

Contributors and Names of Varieties of Seed to be Shared at the OSSI Rally:

Kevin Murphy and Stephen Jones (Washington State University) Elwah spelt, White Salmon spelt

Pat Hayes (Oregon State University) Full Pint barley

High Mowing Organic Seeds (Wolcott, VT) Midnight Lightning zucchini

Irwin Goldman (University of Wisconsin-Madison) Sovereign carrot, Oranje carrot

Jonathan Spero (Lupine Knoll Farm, Williams, OR) Solstice broccoli, Siber-Frill kale, Emerald Fan lettuce

Frank Morton (Wild Garden Seed, Philomath, OR)
Flashback Mix calendula, Orange Sherbet calendula, Lemon Pastel calendula
Redventure celery
Wrinkled Crinkled Crumpled cress
Red Ursa kale, White Russian kale, Wild Garden Mix kale
Mizspoona mustard, Pink Lettucy mustard, Purple Rapa mustard, Dragon’s Tongue mustard

Magma mustard
Gatherer’s Gold Italian pepper, Stocky Red Roaster pepper, Little Bells pepper
Brightest Brilliant quinoa, Cherry Vanilla quinoa, Red Head quinoa
Joker lettuce, Chartreuse Butter Tongue lettuce, Outredgeous lettuce, Emerald Oak lettuce,

Flashy Lightning lettuce, Merlox Red Oak lettuce, Blushed butter Cos lettuce Delicata Zeppelin squash

 

This entry was posted in Agricultural Policy, Organic Plant Breeding, Seed Industry. Bookmark the permalink.