Editorial: The Open Source Antidote for Monsanto

Seed wars: OSSI vs goliath Monsanto Monsanto is coming to town, and some area residents are trying to mobilize to stop them. While Monsanto officials point out that GMO and specially bred crops are used to vastly increase food yields per acre, their aggressive efforts to control the use of their seed leads to a cycle of dependency for farmers who are no longer permitted to save seed corn or develop their own varieties. And that is not to mention the political advocacy Monsanto appears to be doing for the use of pesticides that are shown to cause cancer. But demonstrations may not be the most effective way to rein in Monsanto’s power and behavior.

The fundamental problem is that Monsanto is a monopoly and as such it’s prone to corrupt behaviour. One modern solution to break their monopoly is simple: free the seed.

The Open Source Seed Initiative does just that. The concept of Open Source originated in the software world, and is a bit odd to grasp for the first time: its a way of permanently freeing a bit of code or information for reuse and modification by all people, forever.

Its the opposite of copyright, which causes a bit of intellectual property to be owned by one person, open source or copyleft causes a bit of intellectual property to never be owned or controlled by one person, ever.

For example, if a program or seed is copylefted, someone can still sell a copy of it. But the buyer has the right to make more copies, modify them, and give them away or sell them as they see fit. And the receiver of those copies or modified copies can do what they want with them, including give them away or sell them, and so forth. The only rule is that no one can stop people from giving away or selling their copies.

This is a subtly and deeply powerful pattern, that has produced some of the best software running the Internet. Linux operating system and Apache web servers, which run the majority of sites on the Net, are prime examples of Open Source software projects.

So what does this have to do with Monsanto?

If a fairly high quality seed is open sourced, a farmer will have a choice to buy from Monsanto, and have to always buy from them, or to buy the open source seed and be able to save their seed for replanting, AND to continue to develop varieties from it that might be even better for local use, and to sell those to their neighbors. It frees productivity and creates opportunities for people. And once a few good open source strains are established, farmers and growers will naturally prefer them to Monsanto’s control, and they will continue to evolve and develop faster than any one company could do. They’ll get better, as well as being free. And Monsanto won’t have any more power.

The twist in this is that some of the folks who don’t like Monsanto are also morally opposed to GMO methodology, which may be able to develop strains faster than traditional breeding methods can do. So the race may not be that simple, and the technical methods of getting the best seeds may have separate ethical issues. However, having a lot of minds and eyes on the problem has got to be better than a central powerful bureaucracy with a stranglehold on the industry.

Read more at http://osseeds.org/

Would love to hear from any local Tucson or Arizona farmers providing OSSI Seeds! Contact Golda at gvelez17 under gmail.com




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