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Beyond the material: knowledge aspects in seed commoning

Core sustainability issues concerning the governance of seeds revolve around knowledge aspects, such as intellectual property rights over genetic information or the role of traditional knowledge in plant breeding, seed production and seed use. While the importance of knowledge management for efficient and equitable seed governance has been emphasized in the scientific discourse on Seed Commons, knowledge aspects have not yet been comprehensively studied. With this paper, we aim to (i) to analyze the governance of knowledge aspects in both global and local/regional Seed Commons, (ii) highlight disconnections in knowledge governance between the local Seed Commons and global governance of plant genetic resources, and (iii) to investigate the contribution of knowledge commoning to environmentally sustainable and culturally adapted food systems. For this purpose, we will analyze knowledge governance by the International Seed Treaty (ITPGRFA) and by two local Seed Commons, a Philippine farmer-led network and a German organic-breeding association. We take the analytical lens of commoning, focusing on social practices rather than specific resources. The main challenges include finding institutional arrangements, which fruitfully integrate aspects from both traditional and scientific knowledge systems, taking into account the complex interrelation between knowledge-related, material and cultural aspects of seeds.