University of Wisconsin Develops Open Source Seed Pledge

The Open Source Seed Pledge is a novel agreement designed to keep seeds in the public domain where they can be planted by anyone, patent-free.


| April 28, 2014



wisconsin seed initiative

The Open Source Seed Initiative seeks to provide individuals with more agricultural freedom.


Photo by Chaiyonozl/fotolia

This article was reposted with permission from The University of Wisconsin.

Scientists, farmers and sustainable food systems advocates have gathered on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus to celebrate an unusual group of honored guests: 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains that are being publicly released using a novel form of ownership agreement known as the Open Source Seed Pledge.

The pledge, which was developed through a UW-Madison-led effort known as the Open Source Seed Initiative, is designed to keep the new seeds free for all people to grow, breed and share for perpetuity, with the goal of protecting the plants from patents and other restrictions down the line.

"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," says UW-Madison horticulture professor and plant breeder Irwin Goldman, who helped write the pledge. Goldman is releasing two carrot varieties he developed.

About the Initiative

The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) was established in 2011 by public plant breeders, farmers, non-governmental organization staff and sustainable food systems advocates from around the nation concerned about the decreasing availability of plant germplasm-seeds-for public plant breeders and farmer-breeders to work with.

Many of the seeds for our nation's big crop plants — field corn and soybeans — are already restricted through patents, licenses and other forms of intellectual property protection. Increasingly, this is happening to vegetable, fruit and small grain seeds. Members of OSSI worry that this trend could lead to a time when there's no longer any valuable plant germplasm available for public use.





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