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3 Laws Related To Seed: Open-Source Seed Models May Be On The Horizon

"Seed libraries require an investment of time and energy, they create buy-in." - Ursula Ramsey, Assistant Professor of Business Law, University of North Carolina Wilmington

Seed Saving

In 2018, Ursula Ramsey, now Assistant Professor of Business Law at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, authored The Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law and Policy Volume XXV, Number 2, titled Seed Libraries and Food Justice: Cultivating an Effective Legal and Policy Environment

The Seed Law Landscape

The article covered seed libraries, the legal landscape of the seed industry, healthy food policy, and recommendations for expanding seed libraries in the U.S.  The idea is to adopt a unifying law to create an exemption for non-commercial seed-sharing under each state’s seed law. 

The legal journal goes on to acknowledge the work being done by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, which is issuing written guidance for seed librarians.

This guidance could act as a model for addressing heirloom seed library statutes while raising awareness of how to set industry standards when working with uncharted territory.  

Heirloom Beans

Today, most farmers and gardeners cannot save or share patented and protected seeds, while breeders and small seed companies cannot use patented seeds to create new crop varieties. 

It is important to understand three laws: The 1970 Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA), The Federal Seed Act (FSA), and the U.S. Patent Law. Each intersects with seed usage, saving, and selling.


Open Source Seed

Organizations like The Open Source Seed Initiative, which models its movement after High-Tech open-source or free-like software practices, are building a system for small seed breeders to adopt practices similar to intellectual property (IP) rights and heirloom seed library laws. This approach could ensure that some genes from seeds can be used to create new varieties or address climate-tolerant plants. 

If want more information about heirloom seeds, click the the link to @ForagingandFarming!

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