Open Source Seed networking: Towards a global community of seed commons
This report (PDF) by Hivos and IIED provides an overview of the state of affairs: what is Open Source Seed, what is happening on the ground, what are the results so far, and what are the open questions. The relation between farming and breeding, and between farmer, seed and soil, has too often be servered. Erosion of subsistence farming and a loss of seeds and sharing traditions has been the case. The Open Source Seed network consists of self-organised plant breeding and seed sharing/selling communities that aim to retain and regain freedom to act in a now highly asymmetric landscape. These networks create seed commons based on Free Software principles and Open Source methods. Commons are rule- or norm-based active relations between people and people and resources, enacted by practices of commoning: collective work, shared resources, distributed rights and duties. Commons could never be realised without an engaged network. Partners and supporters add diversity and strength to the global seed knowledge commons that in effect is emerging. Seed commons are faced with challenges of codification of customs, formalisation of associations, declaration of values, envisaging the future and identifying paths to get there. The needs of particular communities of seed users are different, possibly contradictory. The emerging network of Open Source Seed projects is a significant contribution to biodiversity, climate adaptation, and a healthy meal. The network is growing and probably gives shape to a potential global seed commons protected from enclosure in perpetuite. The resilience of seed commons is that each is unique, embedded bioregionally, culturally and legally in its own place. Seeds as an open source phenomenon is revealing its potential. It is of interest to strengthen the voluntary associations that form the basis of this movement, to create a resilient base of seed sharing networks and independent plant breeders to further entrench seed sharing customs in the future.