Seed must be utilised freely

We are a group of plant breeders, agronomists, lawyers and commons activists who fight for the free use of seed. Free access to seed is the basis for diversity in plant breeding as well as of crops and their varieties.

What we stand for

Fight market concentration in the seed sector

A few international companies have divided up the control over the global market for seed. In the past few decades many small seed producers have disappeared, absorbed by larger companies. This concentration process is still going on.

Promote food security through diversity

The trend towards seed monopolies threatens food security and restrains the ability of agriculture to adapt to climate change. Seed companies breed crop varieties to be uniform. This reduces plant diversity and increases the dependence of our food and agriculture on a few international companies.

Restore crop seeds as a common good

Seed used to be a common good: it was so for thousands of years. All over the world, crops have been cultivated, enhanced and bred by farmers. This practice resulted in a rich diversity of crops and varieties that belonged to all and was used without any restrictions. Only in the last century did seed start to be privatised. This trend has produced the monopolies of today.

Our vision

Rethink agriculture

Agriculture is changing. We have to achieve a balance between intensifying production and protecting our natural resources: soils, water and seed. This calls for a more ecological approach to farming, because that is the only way to achieve sustainable production. The findings from agroecology are clear: a uniform agriculture is exactly the opposite of what is needed.

Promote diversity

Instead of relying on a dwindling number of crop types, we need a wider range of crops in our fields. And instead of growing only a few varieties over a large area, we need lots of different varieties. Ecologically oriented agriculture means looking at which crops grow well where. Only if the varieties are suited to the local conditions they will produce good yields without lots of fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation water.

Develop varieties for the future

We need not only varieties that grow well in favourable locations, but also varieties that can tolerate sites with poor soils and challenging climatic conditions. This is essential to adapt to climate change and achieve food security.

Promote varieties with ecological potential

Future crops will have to be both economically and environmentally sound. Widespread adoption is not always the most sensible goal. Many adapted varieties will be suited only to niche locations and may be important only in certain areas. But they still fulfil an important role: where they are grown they produce good yields, help maintain landscapes and ensure clean air and water. These ecosystem services are as important as ensuring food security.

Establish a non-private seed sector, owned as a commons

Many independent breeders are needed to secure and foster a rich diversity of crop varieties. The private seed sector is unable to fulfil this function. With OpenSourceSeeds we aim to establish a non-private, commons based seed sector. We envision that this will become the second pillar of seed provision. Making seed a commons has huge potential and is necessary to conserve seed diversity.

Our strategy

Secure seed as a commons

Until now, it has not been possible to legally protect seed as a commons. If breeders forego variety protection and grant unrestricted access to their varieties, they risk others converting the varieties into a private good. Commons could be created but not protected from private appropriation.

Use open-source licensing against patents and variety protection

We have developed the open-source seed licence as a way to prevent patents and variety protection. This counters the approach of the private seed industry that is based on intellectual property rights. The open-source licence ensures that seed can be used by everyone and forbids its privatisation. This also applies to enhancements to the seed.

Stop privatisation with licensing

The open-source licence halts the growing privatisation of seed from the pool of open and commonly owned plant genetic resources. At the same time we are creating an alternative system of seed supply: we are adding open-source to the mix.

Secure rights through the open-source licence

We currently see no way to counter legally established intellectual property rights other than the legal protection of commons. In the long run, we hope that society will change its values, making intellectual property rights and the open-source licence redundant.

Our offer

OpenSourceSeeds provides a service to those who want to make seed a common good.

Our service

  • We provide open-source licences to your new varieties, breeding lines and populations, and we offer legal protection for them.

  • We answer your questions about the open-source seed licence.

  • We advise plant breeders, seed propagators and anyone interested in seed.

  • We inform you about licensed varieties and much more.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Support our work

OpenSourceSeeds offers its services for free and covers its costs through donations.


OpenSourceSeeds – AGRECOL
Johannes-Acker-Str. 6
35041 Marburg
+49 6420 822871

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