I came to the idea for Seed by reading about the way in which seed companies today are able to copyright their genetically modified seeds and then require farmers to license their seeds to grow their crops. It seemed to me like a classic protection racket of the kind that became famous in 1920s Chicago. The license requires that farmers buy their seeds from the company every year, instead of the way farmers have obtained seeds in the past: from their own crops. Instead of “buy our liquor or we’ll burn your place down,” it’s “buy our seed or we’ll find a way to discover one of our plants in your field, and then we’ll sue you. Then, since you don’t have the money to fight us, we’ll shut your farm down.” This is thuggish behavior barely disguised under a thin, corporate veneer.
I thought about the kind of power one company could have if it were to control the entire seed supply one day. It would have enough power to make ‘heirloom’ or natural seed illegal. The justification they could use is the same one that is used every day to justify limitations on our individual rights — safety, security, and stability.
Natural seeds are subject to disease. Genetically modified seeds can be engineered so that they are resistant. All it would take is one severe (and for the company, convenient) food crisis and it wouldn’t take much to persuade governments and people to take drastic measures. And voila: We would have a world where heirloom seed is illegal, and one company controls the world’s food supply.
Imagine a world where one company controls every seed. It controls the food supply. Through the food supply, it controls the people. And through the people, it controls the law.
But you can never quite stamp out individuality, and there would still be people who for profit or philosophical reasons would still want to deal in heirloom seed. So like the bootleggers of the Prohibition, you would have “seed-runners” trafficking in heirloom seed. In the interest of law and order, authorities would hunt them down.
So if you start from here and add a father-son story, you get the beginnings of Seed.
— Hugo Perez
Hugo Perez, Director
Hugo Perez is a filmmaker and writer whose work often focuses on his Cuban heritage. He is a recipient of the 2009 Estela Award for documentary filmmaking as well as the prestigious 2008 Rockefeller Foundation/Tribeca Film Institute Emerging Artist Fellowship in support of his feature screenplay Immaculate Conception. His short film, Betty La Flaca was the winner of the 2006 HBO/NYILFF Short Film Award and is being broadcast on the HBO networks through Fall 2008. His previous short film Juliet Y Ramon was broadcast as part of the 2005 Showtime Latino Filmmaker Showcase, and was recently re-broadcast on the PBS series Reel New York. Hugo is producer and director of the feature documentary Neither Memory Nor Magic, which is narrated by the Academy Award-nominated Patricia Clarkson and edited by Academy Award-nominated filmmakers Francisco Bello and Tim Sternberg. Perez is also the producer and director of the documentary Summer Sun Winter Moon, which aired on PBS in November 2009. Hugo has studied writing with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, collaborated with Pulitzer prize-winning novelist William Kennedy, and served as a guest artist for acclaimed theater director and artist Robert Wilson. His writing has been featured in the New York Times Magazine and Salon.com, and his films have screened at venues such as MoMA and the Smithsonian.