A Timely Report on Public Breeding and Seed Varieties

Public breeding programs are needed now more than ever before, according to a recently released report titled Proceedings of Summit on Seeds and Breeds for the 21st Century Agriculture, published by the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI).

The publication is a collection of essays and information gathered from RAFI’s two-day summit on seed varieties and public breeding. Held earlier this year, the summit brought together over 35 researchers, plant and animal breeders, farmers, academics, and other stakeholders to discuss our nation’s seed supply and develop recommendations for reinvigorating public breeding research and seed availability.

“Public breeding and seed availability is a critical issue for sustainable food production. Organic farmers need access to non-GMO seeds and seeds that are resilient to a changing climate and extreme weather events such as severe drought.” said Kelly Damewood, CCOF’s Policy Director.

The Summit Proceedings released by RAFI identified the following challenges and limitations to public breeding:

  • Shrinking public funding for developing seeds 
  • Concentrated seed ownership 
  • Restrictive patents prevent seed sharing
  • Lack of public seed developers 
  • Few regional partnerships to develop new varieties
  • Aging and underfunded seed storage

In response to these challenges, the Summit Proceedings set the following recommendations:

  • Restore public breeding programs at land grant institutions
  • Encourage agro-biodiversity on farms and in commercial seed choices
  • Empower farmers to save and share their seeds
  • Encourage the development of more independent regional seed companies
  • Reverse the negative impacts of utility patents and restrictive licenses
  • Increase the number of public breeders in each U.S. climatic region
  • Strengthen our country’s seed storage systems (public germplasm collection and storage)

For more information on public breeding and seed varieties, or to learn more about the proceedings, visit RAFI’s seeds and breeds webpages or contact their office at (919) 542-1396.