On Tuesday, May 26, ten open seed organizations from five continents met by video conference to advance a common agenda. In the context of the coronavirus pandemic, we discussed the challenges we face as a community and the importance of access to seeds.
The Global Open Source Seed Initiatives (GOSSI) network was created in 2018, following the meeting “Conceptualizing the New Commons: Examples of Knowledge Commons, Seeds and Plant Varieties” in Germany. Since then, with the support of HIVOS, we began coordinating efforts with colleagues to advance the open seed movement globally. The constraints posed by COVID-19 led us to postpone a face-to-face meeting, and instead open a remote channel of dialogue about seeds as a common good.
Some 20 people participated in the first virtual meeting of the network, representing non-governmental organizations, public institutions, small businesses and farmers’ coalitions from Kenya, Uganda, Thailand, the Philippines, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Bioleft for Mexico and Argentina (see list below). Across eight different time zones, we met and shared our diverse situations and progress towards an open global seed community.
The meeting was very fruitful. The work of initiatives from five continents to recover, enhance and share seeds and the knowledge, bonds and cultural values associated with them is more than inspiring. They are very diverse: some focus on seed breeding and release under open licenses; others on conserving biodiversity; others on the challenges of climate change; some direct their efforts to food security; others on improving the living conditions of rural people. Bioleft has a lot to learn and exchange with all of them, since we combine participatory breeding with the use of open licenses, and incorporating technological tools for connection and learning.
We are moving forward with concrete steps to build this global network, with a plan to deepen the ties and work together within the next few months. We have many challenges to face: global trends towards the appropriation of seeds, restrictions on world trade under COVID-19, and the growing need to grow healthy, locally sourced food, among others.
We at Bioleft are happy to be part of this new movement. We look forward to meeting the people who make up the network personally, and to consolidating GOSSI as a relevant actor in the discussions on seeds. The network accompanies the growth and discussions of open seed initiatives, and inspires and supports the emergence of new ones. We believe that in the world to come, open seeds are not only possible, but necessary.
Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI), United States. Organization created in 2012 by Professor Jack Kloppenburg, that integrates producers and breeders. They propose to share a pool of seeds, understood as a common good, through the signature of a pledge that is transferred together with the seeds.
Open Source Seeds, Germany. Non-profit organization created in 2017 with the aim of caring for a non-proprietary seed sector, which understands seeds as a common good. Founded by Agroecol.
Alianza Bioversity – CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture). Coalition of international development research organizations that seeks to support agrobiodiversity for food security, adaptation to climate change and improvement of living conditions, from 2016. It works with 1,000 farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, who test and evaluate varieties from a seed bank, and also release open varieties.
Seed Savers Network, Kenya. Organization working for seeds since 2009, with support from HIVOS. In 2019 they documented 64 cultivars, assessed their nutritional value and wrote a policy paper.
Green Net, Thailand. Green Net is a social business organization. The workplace promotes organic agriculture and fair trade. Green Net consists of two departments, Green Net Cooperative And Earth Net Fou.
MASIPAG, Philippines. Network of organizations, producers and researchers for the sustainable use and management of biodiversity through peasant control of genetic and biological resources, agricultural production and associated knowledge, created in 1996. They organization gathers 35,000 producers throughout the country, who select rice and maize seeds to adapt to local conditions. They treasure more than a thousand traditional rice varieties.
Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), University of Coventry, UK works on the relationships between traditional knowledge, intellectual property and agroecology. They collaborateswith the Garden Organic seed library, and participates in projects on seed sovereignty in Zimbabwe.
Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), France. Research on common goods and equity and diversity management systems in West Africa. They link research centres to international processes of building public policy around seeds.
Bioleft -with presence in Argentina and Mexico- is the only participating organization in Latin America.