The trick is to find varieties adapted to the local climate, for example ancient varieties from your region no longer commercialized.
I'm sure this has already been done to death, but... Cheesy sci-fi plot where genetically engineered crops crowd out all the reproducing ones, and then humanity starves to death when evilcorp loses their ability to produce the seeds?
Could we maybe not go down this route, please?
There is a concept called hybrid breeding, both for animals and plants. The "final" product, the seed for the farmer, the piglet raised for mass production, is bred from two parent lines, one for the male part, one for the female. Both are relatively inbred so they are mostly homocygotic. Their offspring, because of Mendelian genetics, is mostly heterocygotic, but very homegeneous, which is a great thing, industrially speaking.
However, a farmer can't just raise those piglets and breed them on his own. Not because of patents or licenses, but just because the offspring would be all over the map, genetically. And probably less profitable. The breeding companies need a complicated system to develop these lines and provide their customers with the best seed/livestock. That takes a lot of money and effort.
Another factor is homogeneity of the offspring: parent lines are very much homozygous. If one parent line is AA at one locus, and the other line is aa at the same locus, the children will all have Aa. Meaning they have both versions of the gene (which is usually good, especially in immunity and health) and all have the same status. This means you can produce a couple of hundred piglets grow to the same size in the same time which makes processing and marketing them easier and cheaper.
Another factor is that some breeding goals are mutually exclusive. Piglets for example drink milk from the mother, which means she must have good milk production and other fertility related features, whereas the father can be bred more for muscle growth.
And then there are other weird tricks breeders can pull. I believe in chicken there are experiments with hybrids that hatch in different colors relating to their sex, or don't hatch at all if they are the "wrong" sex.
Hybrids outperform single lines (breeds, etc) on most metrics of interest. And they are homogeneous in growth, size and body composition (animals). Which matters for industrial processing and marketing. And for the price consumers have to pay.
The current agricultural mass production would just not be possible without such hybrid breeding programs. So the OSSI will need to offer seeds from similar breeding programs. There are always lines/breeds which are not hybrid-bred, but the market for that produce is limited.
Higher performance also means less animals tortured, less land and water used to feed the same number of Humans. From a global perspective plant and animal breeding has to become more professional, not less.
As far as I have understood it, the OSSI wants to professionalize the breeding efforts of (non-breeding-company) farmers and small scale breeding companies. Much like many open source projects got professionalized through forming organizations and legal entities.
It's possible to do, but most folks say that they won't ever implement it. The UN has a moratorium on GURT use.
How would crops that don't reproduce on their own crowd out crops that do? That doesn't really sound like a realistic scenario.
There could be GMO crops that don't need anything manmade at all, but that'd be a waste of calories in plant growth.
There are actually plant lines which are more or less sterile and can't really reproduce sexually any more, because they have been (naturally) cloned.
The point is that modern breeding schemes and technology is necessary to feed the growing world population. There is no margin to reduce agricultural performance. You will feel any loss in performance immediately through price hikes.
I don't know enough about plant seeds to transfer that, but I guess it's the same principle.
This effort of "open source seeds" is comparable to communal breeding, which hasn't been competitive to these breeding companies. It takes time and effort to develop these breeds, and an Open Source Seed Initiative would have to somehow replicate this advantage, probably by individual farmers taking a hit on returns from not using the most marketable seedstock in order to work on those lines.
'the power' also comes from lobbying and gaming the political system; it's not just product efficacy.
That's like saying John Deere has 'the power' to restrict right-to-repair because they make such a superior product, which is demonstrably false. They spend a large effort on securing their products' place in the market via legislation, propaganda, and the threat of discontinuation of service to the lower rung purchasers of their products. All of which are tactics which are effective for profiteering, but not that great morally or ethically -- especially given that we're talking about an industry that is attempting to feed the world with regards to this threads' discussion.
There are some fundamental factors which are hard to overcome. Mendelian genetics more or less dictates that hybrid breeding schemes are superior, in the big picture, to line breeding. But those schemes require long term organizing and capital investment.
Which is why companies have any say in breeding at all. The Open Source Seed Initiative would need to replicate this through cooperation in a community.
Farmers don't have big margins. They can't afford to waste money on crops that underperform, for whatever reasons. They can't afford to lose money on produce that isn't marketable for whatever reason.
I'm not saying "companies" have never done wrong, but I think your attitude is way over the top. And there is no way an agricultural company will benefit by tanking production.
What the OSSI wants to do is to put more power into the hands of farmers, and thus avoid the farmers being squeezed by a near-monopoly of certain breeding companies. It's really about prizes and margins, not about total agricultural output.
Come to think of it, I guess the whole world has to be starving before there is a large-scale food shortage in the US of A.
Do you have any idea about industry lobbying to restrict the use of traditional seeds ? Companies use every trick they can to increase profits and control - a superior product is merely one of them. There is also lobbying, marketing, anti-competitive contracts... It beggars belief to be so naive as to think otherwise.
High performance breeding is a complex endeavor and as such requires capital, organization and time. OSSI will not be able to do it with less capital, organization or time, but they might put competitive pressure on such companies.
It takes a lot of money and lobbying to have a variety on the allowed list.
So farmers are forced to use certain varieties if they want to sell them, not because those varieties are inherently superior.
In fact some ancient varieties are better adapted to the local climate than modern one size fits all varieties, but because farmers are not allowed to sell them have almost disappeared (noncommercial growers and associations have kept some going).
Is this for the US or EU? And it's the first I heard of this, do you have a source? I recall there was some awful EU seed initiative that imposed a heavy regulatory burden on all seeds, effectively making sure only those with large capital backing them could be marketed. But then some exemptions were made for 'small' sellers or somesuch, and the media promptly forgot all about it..
I believe seed clubs are exempt:
"Our Seed Club:Due to really daft seed laws, many of our fantastic vegetable seeds can only be supplied to members of our Seed Club, because they are not on the 'approved list' of permitted vegetable varieties! But membership costs just one penny."
Just realised they're part of the OSSI too.
I'm not sure if the USDA has similar rules.
Real seeds is a British company that sells exclusively non hybrid heirloom seeds. Good stuff and loads of weird crosses. However, they're not allowed to sell them to the public because they're not on an approved list of varieties. s
So you pay a penny to join their seed club and essentially agree that you won't start a business selling crops.
> In the EU, there is actually a list of 'official' vegetable varieties. And a law governing seed sellers, which states that if a variety isn’t on the official list, then seed companies cannot ‘market’ the seed to anyone. In an immediate sense, this law only affects us, not you - because there are no laws at all governing the buying of seed or what vegetables anyone can grow. Selling unlisted seed? - that’s against the law. Buying unlisted seed? - that’s completely fine! So we should stress that for you it’s perfectly legal to buy any seed you like, plant it, grow it, and do whatever you want with it.
Some of the justification I can see is environmental/economical. As per my sibling post - it's there to make sure that a rogue seller doesn't accidentally or intentionally cripple national food production by introducing a crop that is prone to disease and infects/crosses with everything.
However there is also "breeder's right" which is more debatable.
I'm not sure what actually happened (IANAL), the original proposal came under a lot of fire from retailers and gardeners: http://www.realseeds.co.uk/seedlaw2.html
Note that there's no restriction on the buyer, you can buy whatever you like. But in order to sell seeds to the public you can only sell registered varieties.
I would guess this is to prevent crops which are disease prone or invasive from spreading. For agricultural crops the fee includes mandatory testing. You wouldn't want the country's cereal crop to get decimated because someone started selling dodgy seeds. Having read a bit of the legislation it also looks like it's been heavily lobbied by businesses.
It's not particularly hard to get stuff added to the list, but it's pretty expensive. An amateur heritage variety costs £100-175 to register. So someone like Fothergill's or Thomson and Morgan don't have any trouble, but a small retailer might struggle.
This process is apparently easier in the EU, but both systems are so complex that it's hard to tell exactly what makes it easier.