by Amber

Free The Seed

Worried about the growing number of hybrid vegetable seeds in your garden catalog? Were you aware that more and more of them are patented varieties? Not that saving seed from a hybrid would give you the same results as the first grow, but doing so is illegal when it is marked ‘patent applied for’, ‘PPAF’, ‘utility patent granted’, or has a PP number. It’s also possible that wind and insects can contaminate the seed in your non-patented plants in the garden of the same kind – yes, just like GM crops are famous for doing, The seed police could cause a lawsuit to be brought against you if the patent owner felt like it. Fortunately, unless its seed from giants like Syngenta, or Monsanto, it’s doubtful any seed police would investigate what you’re growing.

Let Food Freedom Ring

What we need is food democracy, because food is a matter of life or death. You can’t survive without it, and your quality of life will be discounted eating cheap food pumped full of chemicals. No one should have total control over your ability to have good food. There should be no barriers in place for anyone to grow their own food, regardless of their financial status. But it is a thing that is common today, because food is no longer about sustenance, it has become all about profit for the few at the cost of the many.

Thankfully, not all seed breeders find this modern vegetable seed evolution ethical. Say hello to the Open Source Seed Initiative, where no seed genetics will ever be owned by a single person or entity, and cannot be tampered with. Like open source software and programming, you are free to use them and save seed forever more. By all means enjoy your harvest worry-free.

Every one of the 29 greens, and veggies available to date are open pollinated. It looks like none of them are created and rushed to market with only a year or two of trial growing. These seed breeders aren’t in the same kind of hurry to cash in those who are in it purely for profit always are. Some of the selections have been around for a decade or two. And it’s not just kitchen garden plants you can grow from the OSSI offerings either, they have grains! Spelt, quinoa, and barley seed is available.

The Open Source Seed Initiative launched in spring of 2014 at Wisconsin’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The flags above were used at the rally event they held to introduce people to OSSI and the Open Source Seed Pledge. I was sad to discover they weren’t selling the lawn flags through their store. I want some! Bumper stickers, hats, t-shirts… perhaps they’ll realize this oversight over the long, dreary northern winter.

The breeders aren’t just from the University of Wisconsin. Some are market farmers, commercial organic seed producers, or from other college plant breeding programs. You can check out all the cultivars and varieties currently being sold on the OSSI website. It looks like you get a full sampler pack, rather than picking out a few that catch your fancy. The price was $25 for Spring 2014 orders, and they were not prepared for the demand. Like any other small entity that experiences way more consumer excitement than they dreamed of, getting orders filled and shipped took quite a while, and at the end they were out of a lot of different types of seed. Most likely they’ll be better prepared for the deluge in 2015.

The OSSI Pledge

The following is on every package from the Open Source Seed Initiative. It cannot be used to create any indentured seeds.

“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.”

Learn more on the OSSI website. Make sure to check out their mission statement – we need more seed breeders like these to give us food security that will continue to feed the world sustainably. Some seeds can be ordered from High Mowing Seeds, and Wild Garden Seed, both of which are OSSI contributors. To find out which ones you can order individually, follow links from each individual seed page on the OSSI website.


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The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.