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Pro Surfers vs. GMOs: New Film Explores Hawaii's Growing Anti-GMO Movement

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Some of the world’s greatest surfers—including Kelly Slater, John John Florence, Sebastian Zietz and Dustin Barca—convened on the North Shore of Oahu last December to protest the operations of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on the Hawaiian Islands, according to Surfing For Change.

Filmmaker Kyle Thiermann, host and creator of Surfing For Change, released the short documentary Pro Surfers vs. GMOs last week, which documented the longboard uprising and explored the surfers' objections.

While on Oahu, Thiermann interviewed casual beach-goers at the Pipeline Pro surf contest, met up with pro surfers and activists to get their perspective on GMOs, joined a march against Monsanto in Haleiwa with hundreds of protestors and ventured to Ma'o Organic Farms on the West Side of Oahu to document solutions for a more sustainable food system in Hawaii.

"There's such an unknown with the longterm effects of all the pesticides, and the herbicides and genetically modified seeds," said 11-time surfing world champion Slater. "Humans are kind of messing with science and just because you can doesn't mean you should."

The anti-GMO surfer initiative is part of a larger battle gaining momentum in the U.S. and other countries between critics who say GMO crops and the toxic pesticides used on them contribute to health and environmental dangers and proponents who argue genetically engineering crops are essential to increasing global food production.

"There's no research done that says they're good," said pro surfer and MMA fighter Barca. "When you look into most of the pockets of these scientists who are fighting for GMO, they're usually bought off by [GMO] companies and have a biased opinion."

Hawaiian islands are a popular experimentation and testing ground for biotech crops for many companies due to an ideal year-round climate, said Thiermann.

Surfing for Change sponsors include: Clif Bar, FCS, Patagonia and Sector 9.

Visit EcoWatch’s GMO page for more related news on this topic.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

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At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.