If you thought Open Source was all about computer software, you’re not alone. Most people, if they’ve heard of Open Source, will think about Free Software, such as Linux and Mozilla Firefox. Even WordPress, the software on which this blog is written, is Open Source, one reason why I chose it. In addition, LibreOffice, which I used to write Green Comet, and Calibre, used to convert it to ePub format, are Open Source software. Then there’s Audacity, which I used to edit the recordings.
The concept of Open Source reaches beyond software, though. For instance, there’s Creative Commons, the open licensing system I used to set Green Comet free. The “source” of the novel – the story and the characters – is open for people to read, share and modify, just like Open Source software. And now some people have taken the concept and applied it to something really critical: seeds. They’re working to make the “source” of seeds – the germ plasm – open for people to use and share. Their free seed pledge means that the genetic resources in the seeds can’t be patented or otherwise locked away. They will stay in the commons forever. The first release of Open Source seeds took place this year, as announced on the Open Source Seed Initiative website.
The OSSI mission is “maintaining fair and open access to plant genetic resources worldwide.” In a world where people are trying to alienate and lock away so many things, Open Source seeds, like similarly open culture and software, are vitally important.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth article, here’s one in the VQR journal, by Lisa M Hamilton.