Open Source Seed Pledge

This Open Source Seed pledge is intended to ensure your freedom to use the seed contained herein in any way you choose, and to make sure those freedoms are enjoyed by all subsequent users. By opening this packet, you pledge that you will not restrict others’ use of these seeds and their derivatives by patents, licenses, or any other means. You pledge that if you transfer these seeds or their derivatives they will also be accompanied by this pledge.


The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) is dedicated to maintaining fair and open access to plant genetic resources worldwide. It seeks to enhance the broadest possible awareness and understanding of the critical issue of access to plant genetic resources. OSSI is engaged in education and outreach that promotes sharing rather than restricting access to germplasm, revitalizing public plant breeding, integrating the skills and capacities of farmers with those of plant scientists, recognizing the work of plant breeders of all kinds, and supporting a diversified and decentralized seed industry. A key tool for achieving these goals is development of a pledge to preserve the unencumbered exchange of plant germplasm for breeding purposes and the right of farmers to save and replant seed. OSSI is committed to building a branded, ethical framework that farmers, breeders, and communities may freely choose to employ in order to ensure the availability of their lines to this and future generations.

About us

The most distinguishing aspect of OSSI is the idea that genetic resources – in the form of seeds- are set aside for humanity to use in any way it sees fit. By attaching a free seed pledge to packets of open source seed, these genetic resources cannot be patented or otherwise legally protected, making them essentially available in perpetuity in a protected commons. If they were available only in a traditional commons, people could obtain them, breed with them, and restrict their use through patents or licenses. But in this commons they must remain free. Hence the phrase “Free the Seed!” OSSI is coordinated by Jack Kloppenburg, Claire Luby, and Irwin Goldman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The OSSI group includes scientists, citizens, plant breeders, farmers, seed companies, artists, and gardeners. OSSI has its origins in both the open source software movement and in the realization among plant breeders and social scientists that continued restrictions on seed may hinder our ability to improve our crops and provide access to genetic resources.

Starting in 2011, open source seed advocates began meeting to chart a course for developing and releasing open source seeds. A free seed pledge was developed by the OSSI group and printed on seed packets. The pledge describes that the seed can be freely used, sold, bred, and shared, but not legally restricted. The first release of our open source seeds- 36 varieties of 14 different crops, took place on April 17, 2014 on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, and our first seed packets will be mailed to people around the country in early May.

The future of  seed breeding  is now!

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