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Sharing Learning to Implement an Open and Collaborative Seed Innovation System

Today, three agro-chemical companies dominate commercial plant breeding and global seed markets, an outcome of the emergence of new genomics-based technologies and the worldwide diffusion of strict intellectual property rights, especially patents and patent-like restrictions, over seed material. As a result, minor crops, marginal agro-ecological environments, and smallholder farmers (the majority of the world’s farmers) are experiencing diminishing crop diversity, unsuitable seed varieties, and a narrower variety of agricultural systems that the seed sector is able to support. The existing diversity of agricultural systems, experimentation with alternative, more sustainable agricultural practices, and food sovereignty are all at risk.

This challenge is particularly serious in Mexico, a site of important crop diversity, and a setting where the basic needs, food security, and welfare of millions of indigenous families and rural communities depend directly on the natural productivity of ecosystems and their traditional agrodiversity.

This GCSO-funded project will utilize a set of technical and legal tools, based on open source principles, to support collaborative seed breeding. These tools will enable a network of public sector plant breeders, independent breeders, farmers, and organic/agro-ecological growers to exchange, test, and collaboratively improve novel germplasm at multiple sites, and to develop and exchange knowledge relevant to the development of new seeds. This solution is currently being piloted in Argentina, and this project will adapt the pilot in Mexico.

In one year of GCSO funding, this project will:

  • Have a network of committed breeders and growers in place in Mexico
  • Develop an adapted set of technical and legal tools for piloting
  • Develop a system for the exchange and collective improvement of seeds.
  • Offer a legal tool to protect the agrodiversity of Mexico and the biocultural legacy of thousands of years of selection efforts of local communities
  • Offer a technical tool that enables collective, distributed seed adaptation and improvement

GCSO Participants:
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)

  1. Ana E. Escalante, Institute of Ecology
  2. Karina Boege Paré, Institute of Ecology
  3. Mariana Benítez, Institute of Ecology
  4. Amy Lerner, Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias de la Sostenibilidad, Instituto de Ecología
  5. Lakshmi Charli, Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias de la Sostenibilidad
  6. Rodrigo García, Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias de la Sostenibilidad
  7. Emilio Rodríguez, Laboratorio Nacional de Ciencias de la Sostenibilidad
  8. Karla Peña
  9. Luis Bracamontes

Arizona State University

  1. Hallie Eakin, School of Sustainability

Implementing Partners:

  • CENIT, Research Center for Transformation
  • CONABIO
  • Semillas de Vida
  • National Institute of Anthropology and History
  • Universidad Veracruzana, School of Agronomic Sciences
  • Clapp 2018