Bryce Richter

Free the seed!

Following on from hardware, architecture and design, it is now the turn of agriculture to join the open source revolution. The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) distributes copyleft seed that farmers can freely use and exchange.

The lucky recipients of the first open source seeds that were delivered in May 2014 - 36 varieties (carrots, cabbage, quinoa, lettuce, etc.) from organic farms in America - may well hold the future of agricultural biodiversity in their hands. Every packet includes a message, a kind of call to liberate seeds. It is in the form of a pledge that these seeds will be freely cultivated, shared and sold.

Open source gives everyone the opportunity to access software source code in order to examine, modify and share it. Like proprietary software, seeds may be subject to intellectual property rights through patents in the United States or plant variety certificates in Europe. The regulations are very strict – to market or exchange them, European breeders have to register them in a special plant species and varieties catalog. In 2012, Kokopelli - the French association for the protection of food biodiversity - was fined for distributing old varieties of unregistered seeds. Founded in the USA in 2011, the Open Source Seed Initiative was a reaction to the excesses of these forms of appropriating living things. Defenders of free seed refuse to consider seeds as a commodity - according to them, they are part of humanity’s heritage. As long ago as 2009, the Indian ecologist Vandana Shiva suggested applying open source principles to seed.

Defenders of free seed refuse to consider seeds as a commodity - according to them, they are part of humanity’s heritage.

OSSI offers an alternative to patented seeds that have strictly limited conditions of use. The OSSI project founders decided to work on the seed equivalent of copyleft in order to keep them in the public domain. Like other seed initiatives (for example Seed Freedom), OSSI is trying to perpetuate the traditional practices of exchanges between plant breeders and farmers - and at the same time sow the seeds of reasoned agriculture!

For more informations:

- Open Source Seed Initiative

Main picture: Bryce Richter

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