Symposium Issue on Seed Commons has been published!

We are very happy to announce that the Symposium Issue on Seed Commons has been published in Agriculture and Human Values. Very interesting articles have been submitted to our call for contributions. They are now available via open acces on the journal's website

  • Beumer, K., Stemerding, D. & Swart, J.A.A. Innovation and the commons: lessons from the governance of genetic resources in potato breeding. Agric Hum Values (2020).
  • Mazé, A., Calabuig Domenech, A. & Goldringer, I. Commoning the seeds: alternative models of collective action and open innovation within French peasant seed groups for recreating local knowledge commons. Agric Hum Values (2020).
  • Rattunde, F., Weltzien, E., Sidibé, M. et al. Transforming a traditional commons-based seed system through collaborative networks of farmer seed-cooperatives and public breeding programs: the case of sorghum in Mali. Agric Hum Values (2020).
  • Sievers-Glotzbach, S., Christinck, A. Introduction to the symposium: seed as a commons—exploring innovative concepts and practices of governing seed and varieties. Agric Hum Values (2020).
  • Sievers-Glotzbach, S.; Euler, J.; Frison, C.; Kliem, L.; Mazé, A. & Tschersich, J. Beyond the material: knowledge aspects in seed commoning. Agric Hum Values (2020).
  • Halewood, M., Bedmar Villanueva, A., Rasolojaona, J. et al. Enhancing farmers’ agency in the global crop commons through use of biocultural community protocols. Agric Hum Values (2021).

The Symposium Issue originated from the RightSeeds workshop "Conceptualizing the News Commons" in 2018 and builds on of the fruitful exchange on Seed Commons during the period after the workshop. The articles provide conceptional contributions on Seed Commons as well as various practical examples from different countries.

We want to thank all authors for their contributions!

What are Seed Commons?

Intellectual property rights on ‘new’ plant varieties or specific traits, including control over farmers’ use of seed, are at the core of ongoing debates on food sovereignty, sustainable farming and food systems as well as strategies for hunger and poverty reduction in rural areas.

Many citizens, not only farmers, are concerned about the ways in which plant varieties and seed will be managed in the future, and how freedom of choice and adaptation to future challenges and needs can be secured in a situation where just a few ‘global players’ hold rights and patents on an increasing number of plant varieties and traits.

The conservation and sustainable use of agricultural biodiversity is expected to play a key role for future farming and food system responses to changing conditions and needs; however, existing concepts and governance approaches appear insufficient to halt dramatic losses of this diversity.

Commons approaches present an alternative path to the dominant mindset of privatization and restriction to use. They play an increasing role in the global governance of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture as well as in the context of organic plant breeding in Europe; they also underlie traditional seed systems of the Global South (Dedeurwaerdere 2012; Frison 2018; Girard 2018; Halewood 2013; Kotschi & Horneburg 2018; Osman & Caable 2009; Pautasso et al. 2013; Vernooy et al. 2014). These alternative approaches build upon common ownership and collective management of seed and genetic resources, often involving participation of smallholder farmers and integration of knowledge held by various actors.

Conceptually, such commons structures in the breeding and seed sector can be viewed from a ‘New Commons’ perspective. New Commons – including Knowledge Commons, Cultural Commons and Global Commons – have become an increasingly important research subject in Commons Studies (Hess 2008). As they reach beyond the sector of natural common-pool resources, theoretical and conceptual advancements are required (cf. Frischmann, Madison & Strandburg 2014; Stern 2011). This widened scope also calls for a deeper assessment of current and emerging forms of collaboration, governance and institutions.

From a normative perspective, the New Commons features a quite diverse set of values; e.g. re-democratization, reconnecting the economy to social-ecological systems, social equality and individual freedom. Sound analytical investigation of arrangements in the field of Seed Commons promises to strengthen the systematic understandings of the New Commons and the challenges of implementing it in practice. Such research can also contribute to re-evaluation of values and norms that underlie prevalent approaches to the protection of intellectual property regarding plant varieties and governance of seed.

About the Journal

Agriculture and Human Values is the journal of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society. The journal, like the society, is dedicated to an open and free discussion of the values that shape food and agricultural systems and the structures that underlie their current and alternative visions. It publishes interdisciplinary research that critically examines the values, relationships, conflicts and contradictions within contemporary agricultural and food systems and addresses the impact of agricultural and food related institutions, policies, and practices on human populations, the environment, democratic governance, and social equity. This journal provides an ideal ‘home’ for such a Symposium Issue.

The journal welcomes interdisciplinary research from sociology, anthropology, development, economics, geography, philosophy, environmental studies, health and nutrition science, crop and soil science, and other social and physical sciences; contributions may include empirical studies, qualitative research, theoretical discussions, case studies, literature reviews, policy analyses, in-the-field reports, and humanities-based inquiries.

Agriculture and Human Values is a member of the Springer ‘family’ of journals. There are no publication costs to publish in Agriculture and Human Values. Several options for open access publishing are available, including arrangements between the corresponding author’s institution and Springer, Springer OpenChoice and Springer’s self-archiving policy (‘Green OA’).

ISSN: 0889-048X (Print) 1572-8366 (Online)

Impact: 2.568 (IF 2017); 3.348 (5 YR IF 2017); 1.610 (SNIP[1] 2017); 1.173 (SJR[2] 2017)

Usage: 199,578 (downloads 2017)

Availability: 1984 – 2019; 36 Volumes; 132 Issues

More information:;

[1] Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP)

[2] SCImago Journal Rank (SJR)

Team of Editors

Stefanie Sievers-Glotzbach is professor at the University of Oldenburg, Department of Business Administration, Economics and Law, and leads the research group RightSeeds, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). She holds a Ph.D. in Sustainability Sciences and a Diploma degree in Environmental Sciences, both from Leuphana University, Lüneburg. She was a researcher in the Ecological Economics group at Oldenburg University from 2012 to 2015, and the coordinator of the master program ‘Sustainability Economics and Management’. Her research interests include ecological, institutional and sustainability economics, sustainable development, environmental justice, and socio-ecological resilience research. Her present research focusses on commons as a governance model and its potential for social-ecological transformation.

Anja Christinck (Ph.D.) is an agronomist with specialization in agricultural social sciences and communication. Her scientific work focusses on participatory and transdisciplinary research on agrobiodiversity, plant breeding and seed system development in the context of international development-oriented agricultural research. She contributes to scientific policy advice on issues relating to intellectual property rights for plant varieties and seeds, human rights and rights of farmers through consultancies to the German Federal Parliament, various ministries, international donor organizations and FAO. Besides her thematic expertise, she has lengthy experience as an author, reviewer and editor of publications, conference proceedings and books.

These editors worked in close cooperation with the Journal’s Editor-in-Chief, Prof. Harvey S. James Jr., University of Missouri, USA.

"Diverse Seeds – Shared Practices: Conceptualizing Seed Commons"

Paper on "Seed Commons" has been published in the International Journal of the Commons

Commons approaches in the seed sector are multi-faceted: They span from traditional seed systems, i.e. seed sharing networks, to recent anti-enclosure movements that resist intellectual property rights on varieties, like organic breeding initiatives. This paper derives a conceptualization of ‘Seed Commons’ at the local and regional level, based on a comprehensive transdisciplinary research process that integrates diverse types of knowledge, both from practitioners (German and Philippine seed initiatives, companies and NGOs), and the scientific community.

The full article can be accessed here

Current information on the RightSeeds project at

(Changed: 2021-05-21)