The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) is dedicated to maintaining fair and open access to plant genetic resources worldwide.
The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) was established in May, 2012, by a group of public plant breeders, private plant breeders, farmers, and advocates for a sustainable food system. OSSI was formed in order to enhance vigorous innovation in plant breeding by the creation of a framework for germplasm exchange that preserves the right to unencumbered use of shared seeds and their progeny in subsequent breeding programs.
In recent years, the ethic of sharing seed among breeders has been rapidly eroded by the extension of various forms of intellectual property rights. Utility patents for plants have been especially problematic because patent claims usually prevent any use of protected material in research or for breeding new cultivars without the permission of the patent owner for twenty years. The ability to embed proprietary genes in cultivars has resulted in the proliferation of seeds that farmers cannot legally save for replanting and that breeders cannot use as parental material. Concentration in the seed industry has contributed to declining support for public plant breeding, a narrow corporate research focus on a limited number of crops and traits, and limited options for both public breeders and farmers.
What is at stake is access to the plant genetic material that will be needed to breed crop varieties capable of feeding a growing population in an increasingly variable environment. We need to increase, not narrow, the availability of genetic resources and technical options. We need innovative plant breeding that produces resilient and productive cultivars adapted to thousands of specific places in a rapidly changing biosphere. We need to revitalize public plant breeding. We need to integrate the skills and capacities of farmers with those of plant scientists. We need to recover, reinforce, and expand an ethic of sharing rather than exclusion in germplasm exchange.
To achieve these objectives, OSSI developing a tool that provides a framework for the unencumbered exchange of plant germplasm. Explicitly modeled on the example of “open source” software, OSSI has created a Pledge that farmers and breeders may freely choose to employ in order to ensure the availability of their lines to other breeders of this and future generations.