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June 05, 2010, 2:30 PM

Vegetarianism in the Age of Global Consciousness

Participants: Nils Norén, Gary Null, Benjamin Sachs (moderator), Andrew Smith, Ronald Stram

Albert Einstein, reportedly a vegetarian during the last year of his life, is quoted as saying, "Nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." Notable figures from George Bernard Shaw to tennis great Chris Evert, actor Dustin Hoffman, and even Aristotle have opted for vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. Whatever their reasons, the choice has become increasingly common. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle may have inspired the avant garde of American vegetarianism on the grounds of ethics, hygiene, and health, while culturally based meat- and dairy-free lifestyles have flourished for centuries in countries like India. But the global economics of overabundance versus scarcity, combined with the advent of GMOs and Bovine Growth Hormone, make questions of diet more politically relevant and morally charged than ever, as expressed in such films as Food, Inc. and in books like Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Delimma. Regular consumption of meat has also been linked to significant increases in the risks of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, several types of cancer, and even food poisoning. This roundtable will address the implications of vegetarianism from philosophical, geopolitical, culinary, and medical perspectives.

Nils Norén is Vice President of Culinary and Pastry Arts at The French Culinary Institute and The Italian Culinary Academy, both of which are located in New York City's International Culinary Center. Prior to his role at The French Culinary Institute, Norén was the Executive Chef at New York's world-famous Aquavit, where for 10 years he brought Scandinavian cuisine to the forefront of modern cooking. Before arriving in the U.S., Norén made a name for himself in his native Sweden as a chef at two of Stockholm's Michelin-starred restaurants, and served as the educational coordinator at Restaurant Akademin. Along with Dave Arnold, Noren writes the blog CookingIssues.com, covering everything from rotovaps to skoaling.

Gary Null has been one of the foremost advocates of alternative medicine and natural healing for over three decades. An award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author, Dr. Null has written over 70 books on nutrition, self-empowerment and public health issues, including his most recent, Power Aging. His syndicated public radio show, Natural Living with Gary Null, earned 21 Silver Microphone Awards and is the longest-running, continuously aired health program in America (27 years). The Gary Null Show, which can be heard on the Internet at www.PRNcomm.net, is an on-air health forum featuring knowledgeable guests and scientific information that is presented objectively and in layperson's terms.

Benjamin Sachs is an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in the Program in Environmental Studies and Center for Bioethics at New York University. Before coming to NYU, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health. Trained as a philosopher, Dr. Sachs's teaching focuses on animal use and other issues in environmental ethics. His articles appear in The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, Bioethics, The American Journal of Bioethics, and other journals.

Andrew Smith has taught food studies at the New School University since 1995. He is the author or editor of seventeen books, including his most recent book, Eating History: Thirty Turning Points in the Making of American Cuisine, just released by Columbia University Press and the Oxford Encyclopedia on Food and Drink in America. He has written more than three hundred articles in academic journals, popular magazines and newspapers, including Gastronomica, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur and The Los Angeles Times.

Ronald Stram founded the Center for Integrative Health and Healing. He completed a two-year fellowship program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil before establishing the Center near his hometown of Albany. A graduate of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, he did his residency in Emergency Medicine at Albany Medical Center. He has been a regional medical director of Emergency Medicine at hospitals throughout the Northeast.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


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