A new movement is underway on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to ensure the sharing of seeds.
Founders of the movement distributed the first seed packs for 29 different varieties of vegetables at a launch event Thursday.
The Open Source Seed Initiative was created to “free the seed,” organizers said.
It’s a movement to ensure some seeds never get patented or put under restrictions so they stay freely available for everyone to grow and share.
“These vegetables are part of our common cultural heritage, and our goal is to make sure these seeds remain in the public domain for people to use in the future,” said Goldman, who helped write the pledge that appears on all OSSI seed packets.
In honor of event, Goldman released a sampling of his own developments – two carrot varieties named Sovereign and Oranje.
He described the OSSI pledge as concise, almost like a haiku.
“It basically says these seeds are free to use in any way you want. They can’t be legally protected. Enjoy them,” Goldman said.
Those who open and use the seed packets make a commitment to maintaining them, and any derivative developed from them, in the public domain.
Since the pledge extends to possible derivatives, UW-Madison professor Jack Kloppenburg said the initiative expands the potential pool of germplasm open for free use.
“Already, many public breeders don’t have the freedom to operate. They can’t do what they want to do as often as they would like,” Kloppenburg said.
“[OSSI] creates a parallel system, a new space where breeders and farmers can share seeds. … And, because it applies to derivatives, it makes for an expanding pool of germplasm that any plant breeder can freely use.”
For certain varieties, Goldman said he will continue with traditional licensing through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
A carrot with unique disease resistance, may be more appropriate for use in a larger breeding program, explained Goldman.
Kloppenburg described OSSI as the birth of a movement.
“Open source means sharing, and shared seed can be the foundation of a more sustainable and more just food system,” Kloppenburg said.