Seed Sharing Legislation

Ready to spearhead seed sharing legislation in your state? Here are the basics:

What: State legislation to remove legal barriers to seed sharing activities and organizations. This policy proposal explicitly exempts non-commercial seed sharing activities, like seed libraries and seed swaps, from regulation under commercial state seed laws. This amendment to state seed laws will ensure that labeling, permitting, and testing requirements do not apply to non-commercial seed sharing.

Why: Seed libraries, and other forms of community-based seed sharing, offer free seeds to communities to grow their own food, learn seed saving skills, and encourage home-scale food production. In the face of several challenges to the resilience of our food system, particularly climate change and a dramatic decline in plant genetic diversity, community-based seed sharing is a vital tool for strengthening local food systems by conserving locally adapted, genetically diverse seeds. Yet, state seed laws across the country, intended to regulate the commercial seed trade, contain vague language that is being interpreted to require that community-based, non-commercial seed sharing activities, like seed libraries, comply with the law’s testing, permitting, and labeling requirements. These requirements create a high barrier for organizations to share seeds because of the amount of seeds required for testing, the cost of testing and labeling, and the scale at which community-based seed sharing happens.

Where do we need this law? Each of the 50 states has a seed law regulating the commercial trade in seeds. While the law has not been used to restrict seed sharing in every state, the language in almost all state seed laws is susceptible to interpretation that does so. State seed laws across the country should be amended to clarify the legal status of local, non-commercial seed sharing.

Key Provisions:

  • Amends state seed law definitions of “sell” or “distribute” to exempt non-commercial exchanges.
  • Adds non-commercial sharing and exchanging of seeds to existing list of exemptions from the state seed law


  • In 2015, Minnesota and Nebraska passed seed sharing exemption legislation to protect and promote seed libraries and other forms of non-commercial seed sharing.
  • Several city councils have also passed resolutions supporting seed sharing within the city and calling on state legislators to pass legislation to exempt non-commercial seed sharing from state seed laws.


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