AT ANY PRICE
A Patent on Life
Henry really is a salesman: in addition to farming his family's land, he hustles around the
state selling seed corn for the fictional Liberty Seed company, an industrial agribusiness
behemoth. Unlike conventional seed that could be saved from the harvest, cleaned and re-
used for the next season's planting, patented GMO seed must be bought anew every year.
By selling for Liberty, Henry and his peers undercut their communities' traditional seed-
growing, cleaning, and selling economy.
"Hallie and I had to present complicated issues about genetically modified food and
patented ownership of life without being didactic," says Bahrani. "We had to work it into
The investigation that threatens the Whipple empire is very much true to life. "Michael
Pollan introduced me to Troy Roush, one of the farmers profiled in FOOD, INC. In our
movie he plays one of the farmers who rides the fields with Henry and Cadence on their
dirt bikes. I visited with Troy in Indiana, who like all farmers invited me to stay in his
home with his family. He told me in detail about how Monsanto investigated him for
patent infringement, about two agents who followed him, how they looked, what they
dressed like, and that's what we modeled those characters on. Troy was innocent actually, and settled his case after devastating hardship and loss. But for our film, it seemed more
interesting for the character to be guilty."
In his headlong pursuit of profit, Henry's corporate crime -- breaking the GMO seed
patent -- is nearly his ruin, but his moral crime -- covering up a manslaughter -- totally
shatters the act he has been playing and his illusions that he's living a good life. "Henry
and Irene are disturbed and haunted in ways that Dean may not be. But they get away
with it," says Bahrani. "And that's the culture of the country right now. Politicians on
both sides helped the banks get away with it. Corporate and political greed is on steroids.
Screw people over and you'll get away with it -- you will even be rewarded! And this is a
problem, a real problem. 'Getting away with it' will haunt the Whipple family for the rest
of their lives."
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