THE Open Source Seed INITIATIVE (OSSI)
"You have the freedom to use these OSSI-Pledged seeds in any way you choose.
In return, you 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."
They have been placed into the public domain by the breeder for the benefit of everyone. You can do whatever you want with the seed, including saving it and selling it, but you may not restrict others' ability to also do whatever they want with it. For example you cannot patent it or register any rights over it. This applies to the original seed and any variety bred from it.
Why was OSSI created?
Patents & licenses on seed have spread to many parts of the world. Soon, farmers and gardeners may be unable to do anything more than rent seeds from the companies who control them. Already, the purchase of many seeds in the U.S. by a farmer is actually a one-time rental of the seed for a single cropping season. The license prevents farmers from saving, replanting, breeding, and sharing seed that has been rented, not purchased. Even plant breeders are prohibited from using these seeds to improve the crops. These legal restrictions benefit a few companies but threaten the food security of our societies.
What is "open source"?
Originally developed for computer software, the open source idea makes something like computer code, or seeds, freely available for use, and makes sure it stays freely available. The material is placed permanently in the public domain. It can still be modified, shared, bought, sold, and reproduced. Some people might may choose to improve the material to make something new. But the original material, and any derivatives must remain free for others to use forever, and cannot be restricted through patents and licenses.
What is "open source" seed?
Open source seed is seed of a plant variety the genetics of which cannot be restricted by patents or other intellectual property rights. OSSI-Pledge seeds are available for unrestricted use by anyone who agrees to the OSSI Pledge.
In addition, the OSSI Pledge requires that any subsequent distribution of the seed, or seed bred from it, are accompanied by the Pledge. In this way, OSSI develops an expanding pool of genetic resources that are available now and in the future for unrestricted use by scientists, farmers, and gardeners.
OSSI-Pledged seed is considered to be "freed seed." That is, its use for any purpose cannot be restricted. It is important to understand that we use the word "freed," not "free," because we refer to freedom and not price. OSSI seeds are freed from the patents and licenses that can restrict use. By accepting the seed and its Pledge the user commits to allowing others freedom to use the material or derivatives of the material.
How does OSSI benefit gardeners?
By using "freed seed," gardeners participate directly in the global movement to maintain free access to plant genetic resources. By buying seed of OSSI varieties, gardeners support the breeders, seed growers and seed companies that share a commitment to freeing the seed. Using open source seed helps keep the food supply secure for future generations. It assures that diverse genetics, developed often over thousands of years, do not become lost as restricted seed comes to predominate.
How does OSSI benefit farmers?
OSSI seed preserves the farmer's right to save, replant, share, breed, and sell seed. It is this fundamental right that is now being eroded as transnational seed companies push for restrictive seed laws and intellectual property rights.
With use-restricted seeds, a farmer is not allowed to grow food without purchasing new seed each year from an outside supplier; whether the cause is cataclysm or merely economics, no seed means the farmer produces no food.
Open source, unrestricted seed on the other hand, allows the farmer to grow crops even if patented seeds are unavailable, unwanted or unaffordable.
You can find out more about The Open Source Seed Initiative at osseeds.org