The massive agricultural corporation Monsanto became a public buzz word in 2008, after Emmy Award winning director Robert Kenner accused the company of harming the environment, abusing animals and producing unsafe food in his critically acclaimed movie Food, Inc. In part, Kenner maintained the company’s practices were environmentally and economically unsustainable, only made possible by gigantic government subsidies that encouraged the mass production of unhealthy food products such as corn syrup. Moreover, he provided evidence that its profits came at the cost of irresponsible practices, such as heavy pesticide use. More personally, the film claimed Monsanto was aggressively suing farmers who merely wished to re-use seeds that were being produced by their harvests. A summary of the film’s most unsettling observations are available here.
Monsanto answered the criticism, claiming that it was “committed to the success of farmers,” and that it only “files suit against farmers who breach their contracts and infringe [its] patents.” The company even managed to locate its responsive webpage at the top of Google search engine results for “Monsanto Food Inc.,” a page the company entitled “Monsanto Food Inc. Movie.” After all, the former chemical company has a great deal of resources. For instance, 90% of the soybeans in the U.S. now contain Monsanto’s patented gene.
Six years have passed since the film was nominated for best documentary at the 82nd Academy Awards, and the shock-response it worked on public perception has subsided. But there are people who still hope to prolong the discussion. One of them is Dustin Barca a former professional surfer and MMA fighter from Hawaii who won a professional fight in 2011. He first learned to fight when he was taken in by the Wolf Pack Crew, a famously violent group of north shore surfers.
In the Fightland video below, Barca not only compares surfing to fighting, he explains his fight against one of the “biggest chemical corporations in the world.”
Barca explains that the company is “splicing herbicides or insecticides into the genes of a plant, the DNA. A bug will eat the plant and die instantly because it’s got poison in the genes of the plant, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that’s not good for people.” For him, the fight is personal, because in Hawaii, they are “spraying six times more poison per acre than anywhere else in the country. Over here, everything that gets sprayed up on the hills ends up in the water.” Most notably, the herbicide Atrazine was banned by the European Union in 2004. But use of the controversial chemical is still legal in Hawaii.
Barca cites large sea urchin die-offs, and an increased occurrence of tumors in pigs as signs that the poisons are harming the ecosystem. He thinks that’s particularly bad form for an island that prides itself in being one of the most sustainable places in the word. His own property is evidence of that mindset, a “GMO-free zone” full of a variety of plants that flourish in the local environment.
Whether or not you are inclined to be critical of Monsanto, Barca’s story is interesting because he’s transferred his love for his home, and his love for fighting into a passionate grass-roots movement. He is undefeated in fighting, but his opponent in this, his second fight, is much larger. Thankfully, he isn’t fighting alone, and he has already successfully supposed legislation for greater disclosures by the corporate superpower.
Now, Barca is running for public office. His opening speech? “All you corrupt fuckers. This shit’s over. I’m running for mayor.” This fight is “as uphill as it gets. Grassroots normal person fighting against politicians who are backed by the biggest corporations in the world.”
“But I’m speaking from the heart. The language that everyone understands. Know what I mean?”