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Restoring the Seed Commons: Call for Clarity on Intellectual Property Rights

The seed industry has been changing rapidly. After recent mergers (Bayer/Monsanto, ChemChina/Syngenta, Dow/DuPont), just three companies dominate the global seed trade. Increasingly, giant multinationals are using Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to reinforce corporate power. As gardeners and farmers, we are losing the right to work with our seeds, and most seed companies aren’t telling us.

Closeup of organic spinach plant

‘Abundant Bloomsdale’ spinach. Bred by Organic Seed Alliance and cooperating organic farmers. Thick, broad, succulent, sweet dark-green leaves. Highly savoyed. Upright plant form keeps leaves out of the mud.

Our ability to save seeds, even of some heirloom varieties that have been passed down for generations, is threatened. Now, when you shop for that favorite seed variety in your preferred seed catalog or on a website, you need to ask if you are buying the seed or merely renting it for a one-time use. Are you getting full rights to use the seed as you may wish, or are you renting permission to use the seed only for a single purpose and for a single season?

The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) has identified four seed freedoms:

1. The freedom to save and grow seed for replanting or for any other purpose.
2. The freedom to share, trade and sell seed to others.
3. The freedom to trial and study seeds and to share and publish information about them.
4. The freedom to select or to adapt seeds, to make crosses, or to use them to breed new lines and varieties. Continue Reading →