Surfer Cyrus Sutton takes on GMOs

GMOs Hawaii

“Island Earth” examines the effects of GMO and pesticide experiments on Hawaii. Photo courtesy of Cyrus Sutton

"The Hawaiian Islands are the most geographically isolated landmasses in the world," says Cyrus Sutton, a California surfer and filmmaker. "Because of this, the Hawaiians are canaries in the coal mine when it comes to our effects on our environment."

The tarnishing of Hawaii's beauty is a scary prospect for someone like Sutton, a talented surfer and the founder of Korduroy TV who frequents the islands in search of surf. But, according to the Emmy-winning documentarian, that's exactly what's happening—and the effect doesn't just span to the locals inhabiting the islands. It reaches everyone.

Cyrus Sutton

Hawaii has become a hotbed for GMO and pesticide experimentation, says Sutton. Photo courtesy of Sutton

"In Hawaii, chemical companies are testing genetic technology in concert with toxic chemicals to develop new strains of crops that can be used with their pesticides," Sutton explains. "The resulting seeds from these experiments get shipped all over the world."

Sutton says Hawaii is a hotbed for GMO experimentation with a growing number of birth defects being reported in areas that neighbor chemical spray zones. Companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta even test toxic chemicals such as atrazine near schools, and this testing has been linked to seizures, nose bleeds, and burning eyes among school children. Indeed, thanks to Hawaii’s loose regulatory environment, these companies are able to grow GMO crops and test pesticides that are banned in dozens of countries, including Switzerland, where Syngenta is based.

"Surfers are very active and increasingly aware of what they are eating," he explains. "Hawaii is the mecca of surf culture. I knew that it was important to communicate this complex issue in the medium I know best: documentary film."

Sutton has just launched a Kickstarter campaign to support the completion of his newest documentary, “Island Earth,” the culmination of months spent interviewing politicians, scientists, doctors, and local farmers to try to understand the real risks of GMOs, and what we can do to solve an often controversial issue.

"Seventy percent of the world's food is grown by peasant farmers who use 30 percent of the world's ag resources," says Sutton, going on to explain that industrial agriculture consumes a whopping 70 percent of resources to produce just 30 percent of the world's food. "The UN has stated repeatedly that we need to move toward local, sustainable methods of growing food."


The Hawaiian islands are highly isolated, making residents “canaries in a coal mine.” Photo courtesy of Sutton

Sutton hopes his film will help grow the underground movement of people moving back to the land to change the divide and grow some change instead of "just complaining about it." To support the campaign, visit

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