The rains on the island of Kauai broke records this March. Early in the month, the rain didn't stop. But neither did the people of Kauai. They turned out en masse for a soggy march to Poipu Beach – surfers, activists and mothers with children. And they were all there because of Dustin Barca.
In 2009, Barca, a quiet but tenacious surfer, qualified the ASP World Tour. It turned out the tour just wasn't for him. As a member of the Wolf Pak, he had some scraps that the industry didn't want to get involved with. He dropped off the tour but is still one of the most respected watermen in Hawaii.
The next chapter was Mixed Martial Arts. Just as with surfing, the talent was there, as was his work ethic. At 155 pounds of pure brutality, he is already on the rise with a 3-0 record in a second professional sports career within five years.
Dustin Barca may be remembered as a Hawaiian legend, but it may not be for either surfing or MMA. Barca has become the face of the fight against agribusiness on the Hawaiian Islands. He is taking a stand against multinational corporations that modify the genetics of their crops in order to grow them more efficiently. Barca believes they are using Hawaii as a contained test tube experiment and the Hawaiian people as lab rats.
Wednesday the people of Kauai came out again to make their collective voice heard at a hearing for Bill Number 2491. Hundreds came out against it as well. Introduced by Kauai County Councilman Gary Hooser, Bill 2491 demands disclosure from the agricultural operations of the pesticides they use and the presence of genetically modified organisms. Those against the bill feel it will hurt the agriculture business and cost jobs. It was quite a day.
Ten thousand Hawaiians already stand behind the tireless Kauai boy, Barca. And that has everything to do with his barrel riding and right jab. I had a chance to talk with this father of two (with a third on the way) as he works with Change for Balance on a series of web documentaries about his most recent fight.
XGames.com: So what's going on in the Barca word?
Barca: I've got some big things going on, fighting against experimenting on our island with a lot of Genetically Modified Organic crops, chemical testing and spraying. We're trying to get this bill passed that gives us the right to know as a community and an island what these companies are doing on our islands, what pesticides they're using -- full disclosure as to what's going on.
So this is Roundup week killer kind of stuff?
Well, yes, it's like Roundup, but a more pure form. Roundup is actually a watered down version of the chemicals they're using. They're using a lot of restricted chemicals in large amounts. They've already admitted to using 18 tons of restricted chemicals a year. For a small island like this, that's pretty detrimental to the health of the island.
Fight-wise, do you have anything coming up?
We're looking to maybe be the main event for King of the Cage, which is coming to Hawaii in October. So that might be our next fight. Not sure who I would be fighting. We haven't committed to anything. I'm just coming off an injury so I'm just getting back in the gym. I tore my MCL. I've just been taking it easy for a few months. I didn't get surgery. I don't even have insurance, so I just looked up my symptoms. Going by feeling and research, I've been just sort of rehabbing on my own.
Do you think you're done with competitive surfing?
It's hard to say. After I fell off the tour, I never really wanted to surf another contest again in my life. When I see the Triple Crown sometimes I really want to do it. But that's about all, unless I got in some specialty event. I still surf for Oakley and I actually just got a job -- kind of their head honcho at the Oakley house all winter -- keep everyone in check and spreading aloha.
Explain the recent battles.
GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms. They're a type seed where the genes have been scientifically enhanced. So the reason people are so against it is that the gene these companies have put in the plant are toxic. What a biotoxin does is it kills a bug. When a bug eats a plant and the biotoxic gene, they pretty much implode and poop their whole stomach out and die right there. Basically, we're giant bugs. That's why it's so dangerous to eat GMOs. In a lot of places, people are fighting for the labeling of genetically modified food. But what we're fighting against is the chemical testing on our islands. These are the biggest chemical companies in the world that are hiding behind agriculture. Out front they say they're seed companies, but behind the closed door, they're actually chemical companies.
Who are the companies?
The big six are Monsanto, Dupont/Pioneer, Dow, Syngenta, BASF and Bayer.
And this isn't something you just started to realize. This is something you've been at for a while, right?
I've been learning about it for about six years. I never really expected to be an activist ever in my life. The seed was planted in my head on this issue. I started learning more and started getting so disgusted and pissed off that this was going on. I felt like I knew enough, and I had had enough that it was time to start spreading the word.
Tell me what you feel like you've gained.
Personally I don't feel like I've gained anything yet. We haven't gotten disclosure and we haven't gotten these guys off of our island. What I do feel like we've achieved is the amount of consciousness about the issue, especially here in Hawaii. I made a sign with a partner of mine -- a huge sing that said "Monsanto Food Poisons Children." I was walking with it up and down the beach at the Pipe Masters. That was my first stand. I'd been to a couple rallies at the state buildings and got really motivated by listening to people speak.
I saw this guy named Walter Ritte speak, a respected Hawaiian activist who had a big part in saving Halelea Village. I was really able to relate to what he said and I got so motivated. From that point on, I was like, 'I'm going to do everything I can to help save my island.' I never expected it to get this big. This winter, I put on these marches all over the state of Hawaii. I used my name and Uncle Walter's name. I didn't expect that many people to show up. I treated it like a concert and used flyers -- made it the event to go to.
So I've noticed that Kelly Slater is pretty aware. What role does he play in all of this?
Kelly's a really smart person. He does a lot of reading and knows a lot about what's really going on in the world. This issue is something he's known about for some years. He knows how corrupt the actual agenda of these companies are. I talked to him and I said, 'I don't know if you know this, but you can freaking change the world. There are so many people who respect you and would listen to you.' I've done all this already by just being me. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are so big. But instead of putting pictures of myself up all day, why don't I educate 5,000 people here or 5,000 people there on some serious issues instead of just posting about myself getting barreled and blowing my own smoke?
Are you aware of the role you're playing? There are people who might read about this and go about with their lives. But in Hawaii, nobody gets more respect than a guy who was on the tour and is an MMA Fighter.
Yeah, I guess those are the two big sports in Hawaii.
Unless you played for the Chargers.
Well, when I was growing up, there were always two guys I wanted to be like and they were Andy and BJ Penn. I came in to be a mix of both of them, I guess.
So how did the hearing on Bill 2491 on Wednesday go?
It was crazy. We were there until 1 a.m. These biotech companies are creating a campaign that this bill is about killing farming in Hawaii. But it's not at all. We're just asking that these companies give clarity on what they are doing. They're putting down 196,000 pounds of chemicals annually. Our goal is to get rid of chemical farming so we can start to create self-sustainability. We import 90 percent of our food in Hawaii. That's ridiculous. We want to create real farming without mass amounts of chemicals. I spoke at the hearing and I said, 'We need to remember that Hawaii's number one industry is tourism, not terrorism.'