Give value to your variety
By using the open-source licence, you can protect your plant variety as a commons. Moreover, the licence offers many advantages for you as a breeder!
- Open-source varieties are in high demand.
- Open access to breeding material is ensured in the long term.
- Open-source licensing protects your variety from genetic modification.
All varieties are welcome! By “varieties”, we mean all types of breeding material, including breeding lines, populations, selections from wild species and filial generations from a crossbreed that are not yet stable (F2, F3 and beyond). We are also happy to advise you about registering your variety.
What to do
1. Develop a new variety
No matter if you are an experienced breeder or if you are just beginning: It is important that your variety is new and you developed it yourself. Even a local variety can be considered new if it has been further developed.
2. Use the open-source licence
The open-source licence is an alternative to patenting or plant-variety protection, but without payment of royalties. The licencing is free of charge. Read the full licence text here.
3. Take note of the three rules
...of the open-source licence:
1. Anyone may freely use open-source seed.
2. No one may privatise the seed or its further developments.
3. Future recipients must pass on the same rights and obligations with the seed.
4. Market your variety
Open-source varieties stand for diversity and the common-property nature of seed, which makes them very attractive to consumers. When distributing the seed, you need to inform the recipients about the open-source rights and obligations. You can find the information sheet here.
Start licensing your variety
Are all requirements met?
- Your variety is new.
- You developed it yourself.
- It has not yet been put on the market.
Then, protect your variety by filling out our simple form. The variety will be added on our website and will be entered into our database of open-source varieties. Give it a try and become a part of our open-source breeder community.Register your variety
Voices from experts
"Seed has the nature of common property and must be protected from patenting and genetic manipulation. OpenSourceSeeds offers one way to do this. To support this idea as organic plant breeders, we have used the licence to protect a high-quality summer wheat “Convento C” and a sweet corn variety “Lisanco”.
Dr. Hartmut Spieß, Head of Research & Breeding, Dottenfelderhof (organic farm in Germany)
"At a time when wheat intolerances are increasing, varieties on which less breeding work has been done become interesting. People can often tolerate them better. For us, it was important to keep these selections from old varieties accessible for all. No-one should have the possibility to patent them. Crop plants are a community achievement, no-one should be allowed to put them under lock and key.“
Barbara Keller, breeder of the OS-varieties “Bäckerglück“ and “Nudelwunder“ in collaboration with Ernst Rieger
"In times of privatisation, I think it's important that there’s a countermovement and that seed remains freely accessible. When I discovered the open-source varieties in the autumn of 2018, I was so enthusiastic about the idea of distributing seed according to the copyleft principle that I wanted to license my own variety. The OpenSourceSeeds team advised me to first register my chili as a variety not meant to be grown for commercial purposes. It has now been approved under the name of Black Heart."
Michael Theurl, breeder of the "Black Heart" chili.
Good to know
The open-source licence applies only if all users, starting with the breeder, comply with the regulations. Seed that has already been put on the market without an agreement on the open-source terms cannot be protected from patenting because the licence cannot be applied retroactively. Such varieties are, therefore, excluded from open-source licensing.
A major licence violation occurs when open-source material has been used to develop a new variety that is then made subject to patent or plant-variety protection. Infringements can be proven in several ways. First and foremost, the breeder’s documentation can be analysed. According to the provisions of the Nagoya Protocol, detailed documentation is now mandatory for every breeding process. The user of the plant genetic material must document when, where and under which conditions he or she received it. The phenotype and other characteristics of the original variety can also be compared with those of the newly developed one. Comparative gene mapping may be a third option.
As a basic rule, licence infringements can be prosecuted. Our licence is drawn up on the basis of German civil law and can therefore be enforced within the framework of international civil law in most countries of the world.
One of our most important research tasks is to develop new concepts for financing plant breeding work. The label “open source” has already boosted the marketing of individual varieties and thus ensures some return flow of funds.
Seen historically, most agricultural seeds were developed without compulsory levies. Also today, many organic cereal and vegetable breeders in Europe finance their breeding activities partly through “variety development contributions” that are negotiated between breeders, seed producers and farmers. Some charge a small levy on traded items or raise funds from government programmes and donors. More information can be found in the paper “Who pays for seeds?”.
Another aspect may be even more important. Common-property seeds are more than just inputs for agricultural production. Their use also benefits society as a whole in that they are essential for maintaining biodiversity, cultural landscapes, ecosystem system services as well as the capacity to adapt to climate change. These benefits are less and less provided by the business model currently followed by the private seed sector with its IPRs. If plant breeding leads to benefits for society as a whole, then not only farmers and direct users but also people involved in processing and marketing as well as consumers and the State should be helping to carry the breeding costs.
"Genetic engineering (GE) in plant breeding” includes a range of different technologies, and new ones are continuously emerging. What is regarded as GE therefore cannot be precisely defined and regulated by law once and for all. The open-source licence with its copyleft principle, i.e. the transfer of seed-licensing terms to subsequent generations of seed, is designed for perpetuity and cannot exclude plant-breeding techniques that are not yet known.
Nevertheless, the licence provides an effective protection against GE. All GE processes are time-consuming and require comparatively high investments in plant breeding. Economically, such expenditures can be justified only if they can be protected by patents, but patents or other exclusive IPRs are not allowed by the open-source licence.
Thus, the open-source licence does not prohibit GE de jure but it does prevent it de facto. We regard the licence as a good protective mechanism and are not aware of an equally valid alternative.
If you have more questions, feel free to visit our FAQ page. In case you don't find what you need there, don't hesitate to contact us.