For the following four years, the junior research group “RightSeeds” will investigate the potential of Commons-based seed and variety systems to promote sustainability goals.
Especially in countries of the Global South, Commons-based approaches such as seed exchange systems, community seed banks and participatory plant breeding are successfully practiced. More recently, seed initiatives in the context of organic plant breeding in Germany have emerged that are starting to integrate principles of Commons in their work.
The research project´s goal is to explore the transformative potential of Commons-based seed systems for a social-ecological plant cultivation and how this potential can be enhanced. Therefore, the functioning and context factors of actors employing this alternative approach to variety breeding and seed production are assessed both from theoretical and practical perspectives. Moreover, promising breeding approaches, business models, communication and governance strategies are to be developed for the participating seed initiatives. Moreover, the project aims at initiating learning processes between Commons-based seed initiatives at the national and international level.
RightSeeds is a collaborative research project by the Department for Economics at the Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW) and the Agroecology group at Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.
Integrating perspectives from ecology, economics, political science and ethics, as well as collaborating with German and Philippine seed stakeholders, RightSeeds follows an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach. At the Carl-von-Ossietzky University Oldenburg, the philosophical and institutional economics analyses are centered: The former addresses how Commons-based seed systems enable actors to personal well-being by supporting capabilities. The latter addresses how institutions in the multi-level governance system affect Commons-based seed and variety initiatives and how they can enlarge their scope for action. The Institute for Ecological Economics Research investigates the organizational structures of social entrepreneurs and their role for the provision of common goods. Additionally, field experiments with vegetable varieties will be carried out by the Agroecology group of the Universität Göttingen.
Central actors in the fields of organic plant breeding, seed production, distribution and marketing constitute the practical partners in the German-speaking context (Kultursaat e.V., Saat:gut e.V., Bingenheimer Saatgut AG, tegut, Bundesverband Naturkost Naturwaren). Other partners are AGRECOL e.V., an association that works at the interface between science and practice for the establishment of seeds as common goods; Arche Noah e.V, engaging for the preservation of crop diversity also on a political level, and MASIPAG in the Philippines, which is a network of 35.000 rice grower families, scientists and NGOs. The practical partners’ integration is implemented by initiating, monitoring/mentoring and South-North exchanges, regular focus groups and workshops, interviews, as well as joint field experiments.
With the intensification in the agricultural sector, a commercialized, privatized and more and more monopolized system of plant breeding and seed production has developed: It focuses on a narrow spectrum of high yield varieties for the industrial agriculture and therefore contributes substantially to the worldwide loss of cultivated crop plant variety. The Commons-based variety breeding and seed production presents an approach to counteract genetical erosion of crop plant variety and thus promotes food sovereignty.