It is often argued that it would be impossible to finance plant breeding with an open-source licence and without royalties from plant variety protection or patents on seeds. Several factors speak against this assumption. Historically agricultural seeds were primarily developed without a compulsory levy. In many developing countries, plant breeding mostly does not follow a business model based on royalties, and even in developed countries there are private breeding companies that do not rely financially on exclusive intellectual property rights.

Another aspect may be more important. Commonly owned seed presents more than just an input in agricultural production. Their usage benefits the whole society and is essential for maintaining biodiversity, cultural landscapes, ecosystem system services as well as the capacity to adapt to climate change. These services are increasingly less provided by the business model the private seed sector is currently following. If services for society as a whole have a large share in plant breeding, then not only farmers and direct users should be engaged in covering the costs. Processors, traders and consumers - the whole value chain - and beyond that the government, should contribute. Plant breeding that aims to create commons is a non-profit rather than a profit-making economic activity; it must be clearly distinguished from seed production, which has an economic character.  

Many organic cereal and vegetable breeders in Europe finance their breeding activities partly through “variety development contributions” that are negotiated between breeders, seed producers and farmers. Some charge a small levy on traded items or raise funds from government programmes and donors. The funds generated in this way for plant breeding are still small but they are growing from one year to the next. More information can be found in in the paper “Who pays for seeds?”.