A tomato for everyone: 'Sunviva' for the good of all

January 10, 2019, University of Göttingen
Tomatoes of the Sunviva variety at the University of Goettingen. Credit: Culnaris - Saatgut für Lebensmittel

Plant breeders at the University of Göttingen and Agrecol have launched a joint initiative to protect seeds as common property. Agrecol developed an Open Source Seed Licence, which legally protects seeds as commons (i.e., a natural resource accessible to all members of society) and thus protects them from patenting and similar issues such as plant variety protection. The results were published in the journal PLOS Biology.

"It is with great concern that we have watched as worldwide access to breeding material is increasingly restricted by private-sector interests. Among other things, patents prevent important traits from being used more extensively in breeding, " says Dr. Bernd Horneburg from the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Göttingen. "The movement for seeds to become a commons has become stronger in the last six years—presumably due to growing privatisation and market concentration in the seed sector."

Such movements are most noticeable in Germany, the U.S., India and East Africa. This recent idea means that new varieties are protected by a licence as commons. This means that everyone is allowed to use them, give them away and develop them further—free of charge. Subsequent developments also fall under the licence. The only condition: To ensure that the remains accessible to all, it must not be covered by patents or other exclusive rights. According to the authors, this open source characteristic could even be legally enforced should there be any case of doubt.

Agrecol (Association for AgriCulture and Ecology in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe) promotes site-appropriate land use in developing countries. It is currently testing the Open Source Seed Licence with its Open Source Seeds Programme along with the University of Göttingen and Culinaris—Saatgut für Lebensmittel.

"There is great demand from consumers," says Project Manager Dr. Johannes Kotschi. More traders are offering licensed . The cherry tomato Sunviva from the Organic Outdoor Tomato Project of the University of Göttingen was the first tomato variety to get an open source licence in 2017. Sunviva is well suited for gardens and balconies at home; the yellow fruits ripen early in the season. The Organic Outdoor Tomato Project is a network in which new, adapted varieties are developed through the free exchange of breeding material and knowledge. Since then, further varieties of tomatoes, maize and wheat have been licensed, and the trend is growing.

Explore further: Nineteen Tomato varieties evaluated under organic guidelines

More information: Johannes Kotschi et al, The Open Source Seed Licence: A novel approach to safeguarding access to plant germplasm, PLOS Biology (2018). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3000023

Related Stories

Nineteen Tomato varieties evaluated under organic guidelines

June 23, 2014

The recent surge in organic farming has created a need for enhanced research efforts to inform the agricultural sector. George Boyhan from the Department of Horticulture at the University of Georgia says that "variety evaluations"—studies ...

Counter crop patents by freeing seeds to feed the world

August 14, 2014

Today, just three companies – Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta – account for about half of all commercial seed sales. More and more, agricultural patents are used to increase the control these and similar companies wield ...

Breeding beans that resist weevils

October 24, 2018

Beans are awesome. They are packed with nutrients and are high in protein. They can grow in many different environments. They help replenish soil nitrogen levels. They are a vital crop for food security in many parts of the ...

Recommended for you

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.