Jack Kloppenburg, University of Wisconsin-Madison

HPSM Brown Bag - Thomas S. Hall Lecture, Title: Freeing the Seed, Finding the Forgotten: Open Source Plant Genetics, Freelance Breeders, and the Future of Food

This is a cautionary tale about the manner in which an investigator’s assumptions can obscure salient features of history and limit the accuracy and richness of analysis. The tale does have a hopeful ending. For 25 years of my career, I treated the history of plant breeding as a contest between capital (seed companies) and the state (land grant universities), with farmers eliminated early as active subjects of the story. Only with my recent interest in open source (copyleft) approaches to maintaining access to genes, have I realized my error and “discovered” what must have been there all along – a vibrant and productive community of “freelance” breeders. These independent, non-institutional breeders are the core constituency of the growing Open Source Seed Initiative, and I regard them as a critical component of the new forms of scientific enterprise that could be the foundation of a sustainable food system.