About OSSI

ossi meeting

A meeting of the OSSI Group in St. Paul, Minnesota at the University of Minnesota in 2012

“I liken it to a genetic easement. Or, a national park for seeds.”
Irwin L. Goldman | Professor and Chair
Department of Horticulture | University of Wisconsin


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.



OSSI breeders include:

Frank Morton, Gathering Together Farm and Wild Garden Seed

Kevin Murphy and Steve Jones, Washington State University

Pat Hayes, Oregon State University

High Mowing Organic Seed Company

Jonathan Spero, Lupine Knoll Farm

Irwin Goldman, University of Wisconsin


OSSI engages artists to help spread the word through visual and networked media. OSSI artists include:

Meg Mitchell, Assistant Professor of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Jojin VanWinkle

7 thoughts on “About OSSI

  1. I am a Florida Master Gardener who is not loving the growing trend to genetically altered seed, which is affecting everything from butterflies and bees to farmers in 3rd world countries. Keep up the good works, and let’s make this a global effort.

    I have Started Rocky Mountain Seed Source on the same principles as OSSI. I do not charge money for what I do or for the seed I distribute. If I can provide seed I have been growing out for 15 – 20 years please let me know. I believe in and uphold the OSSI pledge. If you can see some way we can connect to strengthen this movement, please let me know. I’ll be thinking on it. If you would like to know more about the type of seed I am growing out please check my web page.
    Bevan Williams

    • replying to myself, i did not want my remark to sound too snide.

      but if you could please explain if there is or will be cooperation with international partners, or intl. shipping etc. – what are your plans for this excellent campaign?


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