Researchers in Germany have released plant seeds under an open-source license, ScienceInsider reports. In particular, the breeders have released tomato and wheat varieties under this license.
As ScienceInsider notes, such an open-source license enables others to freely experiment with and improve upon the seeds. "[It] says that you can use the seed in multiple ways but you are not allowed to put a plant variety protection or patent on this seed and all the successive developments of this seed," Johannes Kotschi from OpenSource Seeds, who helped write the license, tells ScienceInsider.
Open-source supporters argue that plant variety protections have hindered researchers trying to develop new varieties, ScienceInsider says. It notes that there are some exceptions for research, but if breeders develop a new commercial variety, they have to pay a royalty to the protected variety.
Niels Louwaars from the Dutch plant breeder's association Plantum adds that patent protections go even further. "When one trait in a plant is patented, you are in principle not allowed under the research exemption to use such materials for further breeding," he says.
Open-source seeds get around such restrictions, ScienceInsider adds.