Open Source (Seeds) Under Threat

Glyn Moody | Computerworld | May 3, 2013

Seeds might seem far from the world of high tech and free software, but they have much in common. Seeds contain DNA, which is a (quaternary) digital code much like a binary program. Just as there is free software that anyone may use and share, there are free seeds - those that are part of the ancient seeds commons, created over thousands of years, available for use by anyone. And just as free software is threatened by software patents, so seeds are equally endangered by seed patents.

That threat is coming to a head next Monday, when the European Commission votes on regulations that will determine how seeds can be produced and sold. The draft of the regulation [.pdf] is around a hundred pages of pretty dry rules, but the essence is as follows.

The new regulation will apply to every kind of plant, and will impose strict rules on those producing or offering seeds and plants commercially. They must register, every plant or seed they wish to sell must be certified, and these must be packaged according to strict rules that even specify what colour the attached labels must be.