The Open Source Seed Initiative


The Open Source Seed Initiative

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: Growers have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose. In return, they 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.

The OSSI Pledge ensures the Four Open Source Seed Freedoms for this and future generations: 1) The freedom to save or grow seed for replanting or for any other purpose; 2) the freedom to share, trade, or sell seed to others; 3) the freedom to trial and study seed and to share or publish information about it; 4) the freedom to select or adapt the seed, make crosses with it, or use it to breed new lines and varieties.

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.

More information on OSSI, the OSSI Pledge, and a list of breeder partners is here:

OSSI In Brief (6-26-16)

OSSI Pledge and 4 Seed Freedoms

Breeder Partner List (August 15 2016)

For more information or to contact them, go to


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