Open Source Seed Initiative- Why free seed matters
Giving Ground Seeds has joined the Open Source Seed Initiative as a seed company partner. This means we are growing and offering some OSSI pledged varieties and are committed to promoting the ideals of the Open Source Seed Initiative. We love this organization and we'll be growing and offering even more OSSI pledged varieties in the future.
The mission is simple- keep seeds and their genetics free from patents. Pledged OSSI varieties are free to be used by anyone for any purpose- growing, seed saving, breeding, sharing, trialing, publishing information about, and selling. Plant can breeders pledge varieties or plant populations they have been working with to OSSI. Those varieties are then made legally unavailable to be patented or used as breeding material to create another patented variety. Thus keeping the genetics of that variety "open source".
The ethical foundation for protecting plant material in this way is the belief that restricting germplasm by way of profit-driven patents benefits a few while the rest of us suffer. Biodiversity in agricultural crops should be available to all to benefit from and improve upon- just as it has been until only a few decades ago. Indeed, the Plant Variety Protection Act of 1970 allowed the first wide scale patents on plant life. All our major food crops were developed and bred using traditional plant breeding techniques well before that- as farmers and gardeners freely shaped the genetic destinies of their crops since the beginning of human-plant interaction. The way in which OSSI "frees seed" is simply the way seeds have been freely shared and improved through most of agricultural history.
While it might seem fair to grant the breeders of novel plant varieties, work which can take decades, the right to patent their work, if we follow that right to its logical conclusion, the dangers to the food system such patents present are multitudinous. First, they remove helpful germplasm (genetic resources) from the breeding pool for the public to create future varieties with. The DNA which those patents contain is off-limits for future breeding projects, and is now owned by a private company. Which brings us to the next great problem. The vast majority of these patents are not to individuals happily breeding in their gardens and now reaping some hard-earned monetary reward for their contribution of a useful plant variety to society. They are multinational agribusiness corporations with these patents, bringing what should be all of humanities commonly held resource of plant biodiversity into their private ownership- quietly consolidating the ownership of genetics just as they are consolidating all levels of agricultural business- from genetics to seed to harvesting equipment to packaging- bringing it all into their own super-monopoly. It's hard to imagine a truly free people existing under such a system where something as fundamental and necessary as food production is controlled at every level, and not by a democratically elected government, but by 2 or 3 large companies based in some distant land with no political duties to hear the people and no commercial responsibility because market competition is nearly non-existent.
Show your support for free seed and plant genetics by purchasing OSSI pledged varieties, and by not purchasing PVP varieties. None of the seeds in the GGS catalog are Plant Variety Protected.
Check out this recent article from the Guardian on the importance of the Open Source Seed Initiative: Laying Claim to Nature's Work