Monika Ermert, writing for Intellectual Property Watch, details this important initiative:

Monika Ermert: The Germany-based OpenSourceSeeds initiative this month started to offer open source-licensed seeds in an effort to strengthen a form of “copyleft” for new plant varieties. The goal, according to the organisation established by academics, activists and breeders and establish a non-private seed sector as a second pillar alongside private plant breeding.

At an event Tuesday in Berlin, hosted by OpenSource Seeds organiser, the Association for AgriCulture and Ecology (AGRECOL e.V) and the German NGO Forum on Environment and Development, the first two open-sourced seeds were presented, the tomato Sunviva (Lycopersicon esculentum L.) and the spring/summer wheat “Convento C”.

To make seeds open source was a necessary answer to the increasing market concentration and resulting reduction in genetic diversity in plant varieties. The lack of varieties and spread of uniform cropping systems over large areas present a risk for global food and nutrition security, according to the OpenSourceSeeds initiative.

Another concern is that farmers and society as a whole become more dependent on just a few companies. Earlier this week, 20 German organisations published a study on the lack of interventions of EU competition authorities in recent years against a long list of agro-chemical mega-mergers and warned against the effects for food security and dependencies also in the global South. With the mergers of Dow-DuPont, ChemChina-Syngenta and Bayer-Monsanto these three giants would dominate 70 percent of agrochemical products and 60 percent of the seed market.

To counter the trend, OpenSourceSeeds has created a special licence that will allow plant breeders an opportunity “to protect their new developments against privatisation and maintain them as a commons,” the organisation explains on its website. The new licence grants the right to use the seed and also to multiply it, pass it on and enhance it.

AGRECOL organised a first international workshop on open source seed initiatives last year and was in close contact with the US-based Open Source Seeds Initiative (OSSI), according to Johannes Kotschi from OpenSourceSeeds. OSSI already has a considerable pool of open-sourced crop and plant varieties. But contrary to the German OpenSourceSeeds, US-based OSSI so far decided not to use a licence, but a “pledge” to the OS principles.

Photo by Eugene Kogan

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