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The Open Source Seed Initiative

OSSI was created by a group of plant breeders, farmers, seed companies, and sustainability advocates who want to free the seed!

Today, only a handful of companies account for most of the world’s commercial breeding and seed sales. Increasingly, patenting is used to enhance the power and control of these companies over the seeds and the farmers that feed the world.

Patented seeds cannot be saved, replanted, or shared by farmers and gardeners. And because there is no research exemption for patented material, plant breeders at universities and small seed companies cannot use patented seed to create the new crop varieties that should be the foundation of a just and sustainable agriculture.

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

How OSSI Works:

OSSI works with plant breeders who commit to making one or more of their varieties available exclusively under the OSSI Pledge: You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this Pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives. This “copyleft” commitment ensures that the Pledge is transmitted with any further distribution of the seed or the seed of any new varieties bred from it. In this way, OSSI preserves the unencumbered exchange of plant germplasm for breeding purposes and guarantees the rights of farmers and gardeners to save and replant seed.

OSSI Partner Seed Companies sell OSSI-Pledged varieties, acknowledge the OSSI breeders in their variety descriptions, label OSSI-Pledged varieties with the OSSI logo, and include the Pledge and information about OSSI in their catalogs and on their websites.

The Seed List of OSSI-Pledged varieties gives complete descriptions and photos for each OSSI-Pledged variety and links to every OSSI Partner Seed Company that carries each variety.

Through its educational and outreach activities, OSSI creates awareness of the value of purchasing “freed seed” and guides customers to its Seed Company Partners. OSSI is thereby creating a market for ethically produced, “freed seed” analogous to the markets for “fair trade” and “organic” products.

There is a role for you in the OSSI community. Sign up for the OSSI quarterly e-newsletter. Go to our Get Involved page to join as an OSSI partner seed company, or, if you are a plant breeder, to Pledge a variety. Make a donation to support our work. Join with OSSI and help OSSI free the seed!

OSSI in the News!

Since our launch on April 17, 2014, OSSI has received a lot of press. Check out a few of the recent stories below:
Join the Open Source Seed Movement. Carol Deppe. Acres USA.

At Last the Seed: Can the Open Source Seed Initiative Be a Game-Changer? CR Lawn. Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association

The Open Source Seed Initiative Reseeds: An ethical commons grows in gifts and bounds. Frank Morton. Wild Garden Seeds Catalogue, 2016

Let's Take Back Our Garden Seeds. Margaret Roach. Mother Earth News.

Open Source Seeds: The past meets the future. Jonathan Spero. Capital Press.

Linux for Lettuce. Lisa Hamilton. Virginia Quarterly Review: Linux for Lettuce.

The OSSI Pledge

You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, you pledge not to restrict others’ use of these seeds or their derivatives by patents or other means, and to include this pledge with any transfer of these seeds or their derivatives.

Support for OSSI

OSSI has received generous donations from the Bradshaw-Knight Foundation and individual donors. Thank you!