Matt Ball, Justin Danhof, & Gena Hamshaw


Matt Ball, Justin Danhof, & Gena Hamshaw

Part I: Matt Ball, Accidental Activist 
matt-ball1Matt Ball co-founded Vegan Outreach and served as the group’s Executive Director for more than 20 years. As Executive Director, Matt built the organization into a leading animal advocacy charity, with revenues and assets approaching $1,000,000, and many thousands of active members around the world. Under his leadership, activists distributed more than 22 million booklets exposing the treatment of farmed animals, and promoting compassionate, thoughtful living. These booklets convinced countless people to adopt more humane diets. A globally-recognized authority on animal advocacy, factory farming, vegetarian diets, and applied ethics, Matt has presented at and written for many forums over the past two decades. He is the author of many essays and several books, including: The Animal Activist’s Handbook (2007) and The Accidental Activist. In 2005, he was inducted into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame.

Before working full-time for Vegan Outreach, Matt was a Research Fellow in the Department of Biology at the University of Pittsburgh, while working on a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to that, Matt was a Department of Energy Global Change Fellow, and he earned an M.S. in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University and an M.S. in the Department of Forest Ecology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His undergraduate degree is in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Cincinnati, where he was a National Merit Scholar. As an Aerospace Engineering student, Matt worked for Booz, Allen, & Hamilton, and the Pratt & Whitney division of United Technologies.

Matt lives in Tucson, AZ with his wife Anne Green. Their daughter Ellen attends Pomona College in Claremont, CA. His blog is A Meaningful Life, a Better World.
Part II: Justin Danhof, GMO Labeling 
Justin Danhof is the General Counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research, as well as Director of the Center’s Free Enterprise Project. Mr. Danhof previously worked as a research associate with the National Center for Public Policy Research from 2008 to 2009. Prior to joining the National Center for Public Policy Research, Mr. Danhof worked in the Miami-Dade State’s Attorney’s Office in the Economic Crimes and Cybercrimes Division, for the Massachusetts Alliance for Economic Development and at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Danhof’s work has been widely published and quoted in major newspapers, including the Christian Science Monitor, Washington Post, Sacramento Bee, Orange County Register, Politico, Bergen County Record and the Canadian National Post, among others.
Mr. Danhof is a member of the Federalist Society and Christian Legal Society. Mr. Danhof is a graduate of Bentley University (Waltham, MA), where he received a Bachelor of Science in economics and finance and pitched for three seasons on the school’s NCAA Division II baseball team. Mr. Danhof completed his graduate studies at the University of Miami School of Law where he received his Juris Doctor and Master of Laws in Taxation. Mr. Danhof is licensed to practice law in New York and Washington, D.C.
Part III: Gena Hamshaw, Choosing Raw 
Hamshaw credit Jeff SkeirikGena Hamshaw, CCN, a former book editor turned clinical nutritionist, has contributed to VegNews , O Magazine, Whole Living Daily, Food 52, and other publications. You can find her online at; @choosingraw.

Caryn Hartglass: Hello Everybody, I am Caryn Hartglass, and you are listening to It’s All About Food, repeat after me It’s All About Food, and when you through the next hour, you’re going to agree with me, if you don’t already, that it is indeed It’s All About Food. How are you on this August 5th, 2014? We’ve got a nice 88 degrees Fahrenheit here in New York City, and you know, I am not even feeling it, it just been so lovely, it’s been one of the best summer ever here in New York. Not sure why, but I am not complaining, I am loving it. Now, before we get going with my first guest, I want to tell you the great news. Responsible Eating And Living, my non-profit organization, has apps! We’ve got apps, so if you go to the home page and scroll down on the right side where the widgets are, you can find the iphone and ipad apps in the Apple Store. There’s a link there, and we have an Android app and this way you don’t have to put in because it’s delicious, I know, and nutritious, but it’s kind of heavy to write. So, we’ve got apps, very excited about that. And, check it out!

Okay, first guest up, Matt Ball! He is the author of many essays and several books, including the Animal Activist handbook, and now the new one, the Accidental Activist. In 2005, he was inducted into the Animal Rights Hall of Fame. And he is, he has done so much for this planet and for animals, and I want to welcome him to It’s All About Food.

Caryn Hartglass: Hi Matt, how are you?

Matt Ball: Hi Caryn, I am great. It’s an honor to be with you today.

Caryn Hartglass: Yes it is. So, let’s just sit in that honor for a moment. Haha. You have done so much for so long, how do you keep going?

Matt Ball: Well, I’ve been honored to work with a lot of great people over the years. I draw a lot of inspirations from my friends and coworkers, so it’s just been a great ride.

Caryn Hartglass: Alright, I’ve read your book and I got a few things out of it and one thing is I’ve, you’ve learned a lot over the years.

Matt Ball: Right, and I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I was an angry kid in college when I found out about factory farming, I basically acted out of anger for a long time instead of acting out of what would be the best way to create change in the world.

Caryn Hartglass: And what is the best way in your humble opinion?

Matt Ball: In my humble opinion, it’s trying to reach people where they are instead of starting where we want them to be. It’s basic psychology if you tell people to do something, they don’t want to do that …

Caryn Hartglass: We’re all three years old in our bodies.

Matt Ball: Right.

Caryn Hartglass: Haha

Matt Ball: We are all invested in this, in the monologue that we have, that we are good people, so if you tell people that what they’re doing is bad and everything they’ve done is bad for years, they’re not going to want to believe that, they are going to invest in making you the issue and to try to protect their ego, their idea of them being a good person. But, the point is, isn’t about who’s a good person and who’s a bad person, the point is to try to make a difference in the world, given that most people don’t know what goes on in factory farms. If we can help people understand this, then they can make more informed choices in going forward as opposed to telling people that they’re bad and what they’re doing is bad.

Caryn Hartglass: All right, first thing you just said, you think that people don’t know what’s going on in factory farms and I find that hard to believe today.

Matt Ball: It is hard to believe, but I hear from activists all the time who say I was on a college campus today or I was leafleting at a farmers market, and people, somebody came back and said I had no idea what was going on or they said “I thought it was bad, but no idea it was this bad.” Probably, the best story I ever heard was my wife and I were holding a sign once that said “Stop Eating Animals” and a woman said who eats animals?

Caryn Hartglass: Haha … Oh gosh, yeah, right, I eat steak and uh … right, who eats animals. Well, did she learn something from you too?

Matt Ball: Actually her daughter pulled her aside and said, talked to her, so it was very amusing.

Caryn Hartglass: Sad amusing. Well, you know people may not know, but I think of many don’t know because they don’t want to know.

Matt Ball: Oh, yeah, sure. It’s much easier to not know, to be able to go along with everything you’ve done growing up, what your family does, what your friends do, what your habits are, what your traditions are, I mean, it’s not an easy thing to change and it’s a problem for people like me who’ve been vegan for a long time. You know, to me, it’s very easy. To me, it is my habits and traditions and everything. And it’s hard to remember what it was like 25 years ago, 27 years ago, when I first learned about these things. I didn’t want to change, I didn’t want to know, when I first went vegetarian, I thought I was starving, I had no idea what I was doing. And I went back to eating meat because I thought it was safer, I thought it was … the safest thing to do, the most known thing to do, so I mean, I do everything that I see people going through now when they see a video online or when they get a booklet to when they see a documentary, they don’t want to know, or they don’t have any idea what to do next.

Caryn Hartglass: Alright, let’s talk about this keyword, anger. There’s a lot of anger and there’s a lot of anger with vegetarians and vegans amongst themselves, what are we going to do about this?

Matt Ball: Well, I think the first thing to realize is, is entirely understandable, and it’s an entirely human reaction to be angry when you see what goes on in factory farms, when you see what goes on in slaughter houses, and when you are faced with indifference or people who just don’t want to know. So, it’s entirely understandable, it’s entirely human to be angry. The difficult thing for me that literally took me years was to get over the anger. Instead of arguing with people or fighting with people or even you know fighting with other vegetarians or animal rights people who didn’t feel things exactly like I do, that’s the easiest way to deal with things is to just go with the anger. But if we really want to make a difference, we have to step back from the anger because people don’t react instructively to anger, and they …

Caryn Hartglass: No they don’t.

Matt Ball: They don’t, and it stick. You’re not going to beat many people into becoming a vegetarian or becoming vegan. You know it’s just hard to, it’s hard to take people where they are when you’re so badly want them to be where you are because then there’ll be fewer animals suffering. You know so I totally and completely understand the urge to say “you have to be vegan, you have to be vegan, you have to be vegan” because that’s, you know, what we decide is the best course for us and the animals, but that’s not the best way for getting people to take the first step toward helping animals, which is what everyone has to do, everyone has to take the first step instead of us insisting on them taking the last step, the longest journey start with the first step.

Caryn Hartglass: Now there are, I don’t want to focus too much on everything in the vegetarian movement that’s ugly, but just another moment, and then we’ll get back to the real ugliness on the planet, and that is there seems to be 2 factions, where there are the all or nothing abolitionists people and then there are the welfarist, and your book gives the reasons why it’s important to move in small steps.

Matt Ball: Well, it’s just, it’s not really important to move in small steps, I mean it would be great if we could, if we could get big steps. It’s just not the way the world works. You know, I went for years wanting the big steps, wanting everything done right now, and the key to creating real change, it was obvious if I were just to start back on how I evolved over time, I evolved in fits and starts over the course of years, and yet once I was vegan for a while, I wanted everyone to go vegan overnight, even though that’s not even how it happened with me. In fact, how it happens for a lot …

Caryn Hartglass: Many …

Matt Ball: of my friends, I actually know more people who went vegan overnight who went back to eating meat, than I know people who went vegan overnight and stayed vegan.

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, now, who should read The Accidental Activist?

Matt Ball: Well, I think anyone whose interested in in being an activist for the animals would find something in it of use, and there’re essays that I’ve written over the last fine decades, and there are essays by seven other people as well that bring in their unique perspective on things. I think, and I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from a lot of people, from new people, and from long time people who enjoy it. When Bruce Friedrich and I wrote The Animal Activist Handbook, we wrote it more like a textbook, a linear argument, starting from first principles that wasn’t working, down to specific activism, and that’s more of a, that book is more of a how-to book. And my wife Anne Green wanted it, a more personal book, for the second book, which is why it is a collection of essays that stand on their own instead of turning into part and working it into another linear narrative. So, and if you want the how-to of activism, starting from first principles, then the book I wrote with Bruce Friedrich, The Animal Activist Handbook is probably the better place to start. But The Accidental Activist is more personal, a lot of times people react better to stories and something personal, how something happened for another human being, as opposed to a linear textbook type narrative. The Accidental Activist is much more of a personal narrative, personal story.

Caryn Hartglass: All right, personal story, you’ve raised a daughter as a vegan, and she’s in college now, there must be a few stories there.

Matt Ball: Ellen is really great. I have to admit when I, when Anne and I got married, I thought it was always, just, a course of nature, a rite of passage that all children rebel against their parents, everyone warned us, oh, she’s going to want to eat meat, in the future. But she never has, she’s just a great kid, we’ve always try to be honest with her at an age-appropriate level, through these twenty years. And I think that she’s always respected that and understood that we are being honest with her as opposed to forcing her to do something because it’s what we say to do. And I think that that really resonate with her, and I think it’s interesting, her life shows that the power of example. And she’s influenced a lot of her friends, over the years, to stop eating chicken, to go vegetarian, sometimes not even, she didn’t even know this, she was in line at a concession stand at a track meet, when she was in seventh grade, and the best runner on the team was in eighth grade and was in front of her with a friend, and she ordered like a pretzel or something, the friend said, “Don’t you want a chicken sandwich or something?” I don’t remember her name, but the best runner said, “No, I am a vegetarian.” And Ellen said, “Oh really, you’re a vegetarian too?” Or “I am too,” or something like that. And the girl turned around and said, “Well yeah, you’re the reason I am a vegetarian.” And you know, Ellen didn’t even know this, so it’s really, it’s a good story of the power that we set as our example, even if we don’t necessarily know it, or if we don’t necessarily get the feedback right away.

Caryn Hartglass: Wow that is a good one, I love that, and it is, it does show how important it is to follow our beliefs and live them and being an example.

Matt Ball: And being an example of someone that other people would like to be like, if we’re just angry and misanthropic…

Caryn Hartglass: Not a good example.

Matt Ball: It’ not going to cause a lot of people to say, “Ooh I want to be like that. No going to parties, always angry with people, that’s looking good.”

Caryn Hartglass: Okay, now, semantics here, there seems to be some issues whether we do our work with using the word vegan or using the word vegetarian.

Matt Ball: I think it really depends on the audience. Twenty years ago, pretty much no one had heard the word vegan in the general public, and as times went on, vegan kind of became a joke line, in comic strip…

Caryn Hartglass: It still is …

Matt Ball: It still is, but there are audiences, there are places where the word vegan is now something that’s interesting or is intriguing to people. It’s not something that makes people say “Urg…vegan is …” They’re like “Oh, yeah, my friend so and so is a vegan, but I don’t think I could ever do it.” And then, being there’s an example or having the stories you can tell them by how you changed or what things they can try is useful. Now in other audiences you’re just going to get people saying “I could never be vegan” and that’s it. The word vegetarian often is a better way to get people interested in considering the issues at hand. And since the majority of people evolved, they take their first step and they give up this and they take their second step and they give up this and they take their third step and they give up. The next thing become vegetarian. It’s not as though we have to be standing at the far distance from them in the pure veganism thing, we can move forward towards them and help them start by taking that first step. So, really depends on your audience. It depends on the society you’re in, I think, to determine which word works best.

Caryn Hartglass: Now you talked about in your book that some of the things that we may do actually may cause more harm to animals when we think that we’re doing some good and one of them is when people decide to stop eating red meat, they go towards, what I like to call the feathered vegetable and the scaly vegetable, chicken and fish, and that can actually do even more harm.

Matt Ball: Oh, yes, absolutely. Nick Cooney, in his book, Veganomics, he looks at the biggest study that went over people’s food choices and found that people who give up red meat eat, I think it’s, what he said was eat 60% more chicken and they also eat more fish. Since it takes about 250 chickens to provide the same number of meals as one steer, and you are causing 250 times more animals to die, but even more than that is chickens suffer amazingly and unbelievably in factory farms, and they’re raised, they’ve been bred, so that they are in pain the whole last part of their lives. They grow so fast that their joints cannot take their weight. I don’t want to go into all the horrors of factory farms. Chickens and laying hens have the absolute worst situations out there. And if we do anything that causes anyone to eat more chickens then we’re causing more suffering.

Caryn Hartglass: And, personally, I don’t think they’re any healthier than meat, there maybe a few little things in red meat that are worse than chicken, but overall in the grand scheme of things it’s not good food for us to be eating.

Matt Ball: And there’re a lot of things about, since chickens are raised so intensively and they’re given so many antibiotics and there’s so much contamination with chicken, that it’s a whole other range of health issues associated with chickens, so a lot of people who make the health argument for vegetarianism are not saying “red meat this, red meat that,” they’re pointing out all the health issues that that come with eating chicken because unfortunately chicken is consider a healthy food, or at least a healthy alternative by society as a whole, so we have to go after, we have to point out to people how unhealthy chicken really is.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s right, so you’ve been doing this for decades now, what’s next for you in your activism?

Matt Ball: Well, it’s an interesting question, and I don’t really know, the world is such a different place now than when I went vegetarian like 27 years ago. And we’ve learned so much, and you know, activism has evolved immensely over the years so I am not exactly sure where, you know where I fit in at this particular point, I do want, what I want to do is I want to continue to inspire people to pursue effective activism that makes real difference in the world and to raise money to fund people doing effective activism.

Caryn Hartglass: Because it is all about money. It is all about money.

Matt Ball: Yeah, and we are really limited by the amount of money we’ve, the more money we have, the more people we can reach through documentary, through online ads, through booklets, through humane education, because there are a lot of people out there who would do this work if they had the opportunity than we are able to fund at this time.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s right. Well, Matt, thank you for speaking with me today on It’s All About Food. And all the best with The Accidental Activist and you can visit Matt Ball at his blog, A Meaningful Life, A Better World,

Matt Ball: Thank you very much, Caryn!

Caryn Hartglass: You’re welcome! Thank you!

Matt Ball: Thanks, bye!

Caryn Hartglass: Bye!


Transcribed by Queenie Tsui, 9/11/2014


Let’s move to my next guest, shall we? We’ve got Justin Danhof. He is with the National Center for Public Policy Research, General Counsel. We’re going to talk a bit about some recent event with GMO labeling. Justin, how are you today?

Justin Danhof: I’m doing well Caryn. Thanks for having me on.

Caryn Hartglass: Tell me—we have an anti-GMO proposal recently and it was denounced at the Safeway Shareholder Meeting. That doesn’t sound like good news to me.

Justin Danhof: I think it’s great news for customers. I think it’s great news for Safeway Shareholders and I think it’s great news for the public at large. What happened was a group called the Green Century Equity Fund had submitted a proposal to Safeway that would have required the company to slap a scary little label on every product containing GMOs–Safeway, of course, one of the largest grocery stores in the United States. The gentleman who actually introduced the proposal claimed that there’s no scientific evidence that GMOs are safe. I got up and I spoke in front of the Board of Directors, the executives and the shareholders and I explained the extensive list of independent scientific organizations that have studied GMOs and found them to be perfectly safe for human consumption. In the end the shareholders, by about a 90 percent to 10 percent margin, agreed with our side of the issue.

Caryn Hartglass: I think the shareholders are mostly concerned with profits and I don’t know that they are entirely concerned about much else. I don’t want to talk about the scientific evidence, about GMOs being safe or not just right now, but I want to tell you why I would like labeling and why I don’t care for genetically modified organisms in my food. I think, primarily, for me, it’s about supporting the current industrial-agricultural process with giant agribusiness. I think it’s bad practice. I think monocropping on large fields and dumping toxic pesticides and herbicides and using petrochemicals, fertilizers which we do not have an unlimited supply of—I think this is not healthy. I don’t think it’s healthy for biodiversity. I don’t think it’s healthy for soil. We’re degrading our soil. We’re seeing a lot of water loss because we’re sucking up all the water out of the aquifers. We’ve got water pollution filled with these toxins from the pesticides and herbicides and we’ve got air pollution. This type of industrial-agricultural—a lot of it—is growing plants, cereal crops and soy and alfalfa to feed animals to feed people. It is very inefficient. What I continually propose and support is an organic system, an organic agriculture, where people are eating more plants, less animals. It’s better for the planet. It’s better for our health. The last thing about GMOs that we hear a lot from the companies that are researching about them and creating them is that it will help with world hunger. If you follow any of the NGOs, non-governmental organizations, that are out there that are supporting the developing nations and their issues with food scarcity, GMOs are not anywhere near the top of the list. They talk about food distribution. They talk about the unfair land distribution where there are a few people that own the land that are growing whatever they want and the people that work on them grow things that end up being commodity foods that are exported and they don’t even have enough food to feed themselves. So there’s a lot of issues that are related with hunger that have nothing to do with the growing of food. The last thing is that GMOs, if they are going to help the developing nations feed themselves, they’re creating a small collection of foods, most of them aren’t what these people are normally eating. They are not culturally based. They are unusual foods and I think it is really scientifically, culturally, ethically going in the wrong direction.

Justin Danhof: OK. I don’t know what to address first because you said we can’t talk about science so I’m not sure why we’re going to have a debate if we can’t bring in the science.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s why I would support labeling of foods because I want to know what has genetically modified foods in it. I also don’t think that the science is very good.

Justin Danhof: You don’t trust the American Medical Association?

Caryn Hartglass: I don’t.

Justin Danhof: OK. You don’t trust the World Health Organization? You don’t trust the National Academy of Sciences? You don’t trust the American Association for the Advancement of Science?

Caryn Hartglass: I question everyone.

Justin Danhof: So who do you trust?

Caryn Hartglass: Me. I trust myself and my own personal researchers—a handful of people that I believe in terms of what their motivations are when they put things out. But anyone who is linked to a great deal of money like shareholders of Safeway—I don’t respect their opinion.

Justin Danhof: You don’t respect their opinion? So if these GMOs are causing such devastation and such harm, Safeway would be smart in a business sense to label them and the shareholders would want it. Otherwise they would setting themselves up for incredible class action lawsuits down the road. Just as the tobacco industry, right? There’s a lot of foresight into this so think about it, these would be the front runners. Here’s my other question: If GMOs are so harmful, why in the heck are we just going to label them? If they’re so bad I don’t want them labeled, I would support banning them.

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, me too, but you know I just talked with …

Justin Danhof: The activists only want them labeled… many of them are in the pocket of the organic food lobby that’s the simple truth here…

Caryn Hartglass: No, no. …my prior guest in terms of promoting a vegan agenda. He realized that he cannot make big change so we go for small steps in order to make change happen…

Justin Danhof: No, no, no, you and I both know it’s a sinister ploy by the organic food lobby, right?

Caryn Hartglass: I don’t think the organic food lobby is sinister. I want more organic foods.

Justin Danhof: You scare the American people about GMOs even though they can create a higher yield crop. They can get rid of disease. They can help with world hunger. You scare the people for years on this anti-junk science campaign that’s not based on any facts, not based on any evidence, just based on fear because people irrationally use fear in decision-making, right? And then, step two, slap a label on those products you just scared the American people about irrationally. And guess who profits? The organic food lobby. It’s not hard to figure out what’s going on here.

Caryn Hartglass: I think the people who are profiting are the small industrial agricultural group. I mention a lot of points here that I think are really important, that are behind promotion of genetically modified foods which are not related to whether they’re safe or not but there are…The problem is with doing studies is they’re expensive and long-term studies are really hard to do.

Justin Danhof: The Europeans took care of that. They did a ten year study that cost over two hundred million Euros to exhaustively examine the issue.

Caryn Hartglass: And how did they do it?

Justin Danhof: This was 130 research projects, covering more than 25 years of combined research involving more than 500 independent—independent—research groups. They determined that GMOs are perfectly safe for human consumption.

Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t seen any convincing studies that have shown over the long term…

Justin Danhof: Then you’re burying your head in the sand.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m not burying my head…and the other thing is …

Justin Danhof: Type into Google “European Union GMO study”, go look it up. It’s 264 pages I get that it’s a little dense but they have an executive summary. You can read the conclusion of the report. It’s not complicated to find this research.

Caryn Hartglass: We’ve seen research that shows a lot of negative things are happening to bugs because some of the GMOs have pesticides built into them that are supposed to kill and they do kill and then they start subsequently killing other pests. We’ve got a lot of bad things going on at the microscopic level…

Justin Danhof: Let’s talk about killing and death. Let’s talk about how us Westerners who are activists on this issue, the food zealots I want to call them, have scared the government of India into banning golden rice. Let’s talk about that.

Caryn Hartglass: Let’s talk about golden rice…

Justin Danhof: Let’s talk about children going blind. Let’s talking about children that are malnourished… Vitamin A infused rice…

Caryn Hartglass: Grow foods that naturally contain Vitamin A that aren’t going to give them an overdose of Vitamin A where they have to consume so much rice in order to get a normal level of Vitamin A…it’s just nonsense…there’s plenty of naturally growing plants that have Vitamin A that are native to the area and with just the right amount of technology and financial resources they can grow those plants. They don’t need some high tech food that is alien to them. That’s just crazy.

Justin Danhof: Rice is alien, right…

Caryn Hartglass: The problem with hunger is distribution. It’s not some super food that we have to start giving to the world. I just wanted to mention that in this press release you refer to the Third World. We don’t talk (whispering) about them as the Third World any more, it’s developing nations.

Justin Danhof: Wow, your political correction really is just smugness coming through on such an epic level, but you know, continue.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s…

Justin Danhof: Look down your nose at me while I try to help the developing world and you try and keep your thumb on them with your junk science. I’m going to use real science and real facts to try and help people.

Caryn Hartglass: The other problem is all of the farmers that can’t keep up with the debt that they have to pay for all the seeds to plant these patented foods when they…

Justin Danhof: Are you a patent lawyer? We can debate the patent issue where we want but it’s a highly intricate legal issue…

Caryn Hartglass: Yeah it’s so intricate the farmers don’t realize what they’re getting into when they purchase the seeds. They go into high debt and then the crops don’t yield.

Justin Danhof: Well, hey…

Caryn Hartglass: Too bad for them. We really care about them, right?

Justin Danhof: You want to look down your nose at them too.

Caryn Hartglass: The issues with GMOs. There is the question of safety which many of us have not been convinced of and there are many more issues which is the support of industrial/agricultural procedures which are destroying our soil, too dependent on petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides and what about the fact that the GMOs kept telling us it would wean us off of using toxic herbicides and pesticides and yet all the Roundup Ready products need more Roundup Ready every year because the weeds are getting smarter and we have super weeds.

Justin Danhof: I’ll just keep working to present facts. I’ll keep working to present science. I’ll keep working on the promise of GMOs. You can keep spreading junk science. You can keep misinforming folks and we’ll just part ways at that because you started the debate by saying “we don’t want to talk about science”. I listed dozens of independent studies that I hope your listeners go look at even if you won’t to verify what we all know: That GMOs are perfectly safe. There’s lots of other…are you interested in mutation breeding? Because that’s a lot scarier to a lot of people but nobody seems to talk about that. That would involve educating yourself on another scientific angle so I know that’s not up your alley.

Caryn Hartglass: I have a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering and I read and understand all the science. The reason why I said that I didn’t want to touch on the science is because there really hasn’t been a lot of good science in either direction. I’d rather focus on much easier to understand issues that are so important and GMOs support the bad practices of giant agribusiness so I would prefer to have them labeled, to know which products they are so they don’t have to find them.

Justin Danhof: The organic products are labeled so go buy them.

Caryn Hartglass: I do and I wish that there was more government action to make them more affordable for everyone so that we wouldn’t have agriculture that’s based on toxic pesticides and herbicides and petrochemicals. That’s all. It’s been great talking to you. Keep doing what you’re doing and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

Justin Danhof: And for those that want to read the other side visit us at for those that don’t, keep listening. Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: Bye.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, there you go, wasn’t that fun?

Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly, 8/26/2014


Hey everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food, part two on August 5th, 2014. Oh gosh, I need to breathe deeply here because that was kind of exciting back and forth there a moment ago. Let me know what you think of that and anything else we talk about here. You can e-mail me at Right, now let’s relax shall we and start talking about my favorite subject—food—with Gena Hamshaw, CCN, a former book editor turned clinical nutritionist. She has contributed to Veg News, O Magazine, Whole Living, Daily, Food52 and other publications. Her website is Hi Gena.

Gena Hamshaw: Hi Caryn, how are you?

Caryn Hartglass: Good. Love your book!

Gena Hamshaw: Thank you so much.

Caryn Hartglass: Just perfect

Gena Hamshaw: Glad you like it.

Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t had a cookbook author on in awhile. I do love talking about food and I love talking about delicious food and people need to know, every day, how to make healthy delicious food. I’ve been concentrating on the uglier side of food for awhile now and let’s just talk about delicious healthy food.

Gena Hamshaw: Yeah, absolutely, let’s talk about it.

Caryn Hartglass: What’s your story?

Gena Hamshaw: Well, the food in my book is vegan food, obviously.

Caryn Hartglass: Yaah!

Gena Hamshaw: One hundred and twenty five vegan recipes. A lot of them are raw as the title suggests. I’m not 100% as some people are, so I’ll pretty much eat anything as long as it’s vegan. But I call myself a raw foods enthusiast which essentially means that I love raw food recipes and I get a big kick out of preparing them. So there’s a big emphasis on raw food in the book and the thing behind that is, it’s not to make anyone go raw or to encourage anyone to go raw and I’m not necessarily encouraging anyone to go vegan if that’s not what they’re hoping to do. It is an effort to encourage everyone to eat more vegetables, to consider plant-based food. If you’ve ever thought about doing meatless Monday or just cooking more vegetarian dinners but you kind of don’t know where to start, I really wanted to give people an accessible, fun, inspiring resource. Of course the emphasis is also on foods that are healthful, so whole foods, foods that are made with minimally prepared ingredients, lots of really healthful choices like quinoa, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and an emphasis on foods that are nourishing as well as really delicious and tasty.

Caryn Hartglass: Well, the challenge I think all of us know is that people need to find their kitchens.

Gena Hamshaw: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: I haven’t said that in awhile but I need to say it because… You know I was talking to Matt Ball earlier about how do we work our activism to encourage people to go vegan and how many times have I heard people say “I can’t be like you”, “I can’t do that”. I think it’s just a fear of not knowing where their kitchen is.

Gena Hamshaw: Absolutely. I think it’s simple, that part of it is. People are so out of touch with preparing their own food that they kind of don’t remember how. And to them the idea of cooking vegan food is so exotic and so out there. That’s part of what people are so scared of when they are afraid of going vegan—the idea that they’re going to have to be home making everything from scratch. So the question becomes: What do I do if I love restaurants? What do I do if I love to travel? What do I do if I have a really active social life and I don’t want to be home boiling quinoa all the time? I think one thing that’s really important to remind people is that veganism is now a lifestyle that is not only acceptable within the confines of your kitchen. It is becoming so much easier to carry veganism out there in the real world and enjoy vegan food in restaurants, find options on menus all over the place, find vegan grocery items at mainstream supermarkets. When I went vegan it was over seven years ago and it was much harder at the time to eat in restaurants or to find something like Earth Balance at any grocery store that wasn’t a health food store or Whole Foods. Now I can walk into any Safeway and find something like Earth Balance or soy milk or almond milk or anything like that. So I think what people also need to remember sure, it’s important to connect with food in the kitchen and in the home space but veganism also is not a request that you kiss your social life goodbye. You can be vegan out there, out and about and it doesn’t have to be a choice that makes you siphon yourself off from friends, co-workers, etc.

Caryn Hartglass: You know it’s funny you mention Safeway. I don’t know if you were listening to the program just before this but we were talking about how Safeway shareholders rejected an anti-GMO proposal so we’re glad for Safeway for having all the wonderful soy milks and faux meats and all the vegan alternatives, that’s really wonderful but not happy about the anti-GMO proposal that they rejected. But, oh well. Let’s move on. You mentioned that you had done a moment of eating all raw and I did it too for about two years.

Gena Hamshaw: Oh wow. That’s a good long raw scene.

Caryn Hartglass: It is and I really enjoyed it but I love the way I eat now and that’s a whole food plant-based vegan diet, lots of greens, cooked and raw food. In thumbing through your book I reminded myself of a couple of things that I used to make and I don’t make anymore and I really need to make them again and that is flaxseed crackers. So wonderful and not to difficult at all, especially since—I mentioned this awhile ago—but I had this gas oven at home and I didn’t know for ten years that it had a dehydrator option on it. I even had one of those Excalibur dehydrators during my raw period—right next to the oven that had a dehydrator option and I didn’t know it. So I can dehydrate. The other recipes—the buckwheaties…

Gena Hamshaw: Absolutely, that’s sort of a staple. I feel like that’s like a raw foods staple dish. In my book I refer to fifteen essentials of vegan eating. I was trying to think of all the dishes that are like raw food essentials or greatest hits or what have you. Flax crackers was one of them, cashew peas was another one, the sort of basic green smoothie, zucchini pasta. I feel like these are the dishes that you’re going to eat very quickly if you start getting into raw food. Then there are some of the most foundational recipes of a raw food diet.

Caryn Hartglass: Right. Buckwheaties was like a nut milk on top of it.

Gena Hamshaw: So delicious. Such a good breakfast.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m sorry, move over Captain Crunch and cow’s milk…blah.

Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. As soon as you get used to something like the way Buckwheaties taste it’s amazing how you’ll go back to eating conventional cereal and it just tastes so terrible. It tastes so sugary and so not wholesome. One of the things I really like about raw food in particular is that I think it forces you to kind of connect with whole foods in this very intimate, powerful way. It can really train your taste buds to start appreciating the beauty of unadulterated food. And that was one thing I took away from raw food very strongly. And it’s one of the things that has really stayed with me.

Caryn Hartglass: I think it’s easiest to introduce more raw foods during the summer. It’s a good time to do it because the summer—when you’re in places like where I am in New York where it’s hot and you sweat and it’s important to stay hydrated—you can hydrate so well with raw foods that are filled with water.

Gena Hamshaw: Absolutely.

Caryn Hartglass: It’s great to drink water but it’s better to get it in your food.

Gena Hamshaw: It’s important to also get it in your food. Of course it’s important to hydrate with real water but, yeah, it’s true, a lot of folks eat very dehydrating diets. It’s a lot of refined grains and meats, salty foods, prepared foods, microwaved foods. If you think about that they’re all really dehydrating and raw foods are so rich in water which is great.

Caryn Hartglass: You have a section in your book on myths and misconceptions which is so important. In this world of the internet where people can find any bit of information and latch on to it, some of it’s good and some of it’s not so good. The myths, boy some of them just go on and on and on no matter what we do to combat them. You have a few good ones here. A lot of people think about detoxing and doing a detox. What do you think about detoxes?

Gena Hamshaw: I don’t think it is. I don’t really think there is such a thing. There is from a medical standpoint such a thing and that is detoxification from a very particular kind of drug. It is possible for people who are addicted to certain kinds of narcotics to go through detoxification process or who have been exposed to certain kinds of toxins but when it comes to the idea of our bodies are falling with every single particle of bad air we’ve ingested into our kids and remnants and sort of sludge from all these years of terrible diets and booze and caffeine and if we somehow eat green vegetables we will purge these terrible toxins from our bodies, that is really a myth. That is a myth that has been created in certain health circles and the idea that somehow detox is a part of the process of going vegan, which is something you hear all the time. You know “if you go vegan you’ll detox all the years of dairy out of your system and you’ll feel stuffy and get headaches”, that’s really not true. There’s no validated scientific evidence to support this. Of course a lot of people do feel differently as they adopt plant-based diets and that makes a lot of sense. For most people they’re getting a lot more hydration. They’re eating a lot more fiber so there can be some GI disruption at the beginning and some people might feel headachy or a little bit tired because they’re used to eating really sugary or stimulating foods. If they start to eat a healthier diet of course they’re not getting quite as much of the sugar and the stimulation. But there is no detoxification, you know sort of insidious toxins happening. As much as that’s sort of a fun idea, I don’t think there’s much to it.

Caryn Hartglass: Even if there are things we want to remove from our bodies it doesn’t happen quickly. It takes a long time. I know personally I went through a romp with advanced ovarian cancer and I had chemotherapy. It took a year to feel, to be, one hundred percent rid of all the side effects of chemotherapy.

Gena Hamshaw: Of course.

Caryn Hartglass: What was it that the toxins that were still in my body? I don’t know what it was but it took a year and that was a year on a super healthy whole foods plant-based vegan diet eating a lot of green foods. It takes time. So these one week, two week, whatever, detoxes…they’re a joke.

Gena Hamshaw: Absolutely. And also the idea that it’s healthy to just drink juice for a week. It’s really not. Metabolically and in terms of nutrition, that’s not healthy for our bodies. We need a lot more nourishment than that. One thing I say to my nutrition clients all the time because I’m still a practicing nutritionist, is this: It’s actually really easy to just drink juice for a week. Typically it’s some package cleanse that you’ve bought from some provider and they deliver all the juices to you. All you have to do is put them in your frig and drink them when you want them and/or pre-prepared foods or whatever. That’s really easy. Someone is holding your hand and walking you through it. What’s really hard is teaching yourself how to eat everything in moderation but eat healthfully overall, day after day after day—how to prepare the food yourself, how to prep and cook and pay attention to your diet. That’s really hard and you’re not going to learn that from some sort of one week detox fad diet. It’s the kind of thing that you have to invest time and energy in teaching yourself.

Caryn Hartglass: Now you mentioned in the beginning of the book that you’re from a Greek background?

Gena Hamshaw: I am, indeed.

Caryn Hartglass: I can’t help but think of the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Gena Hamshaw: The funny thing about that is my Yiayia, my grandmother, actually said those very words to me when I told her that I was going to stop eating red meat. I stopped eating red meat as a child. I went veg…

Caryn Hartglass: “That’s ok I’ll make lamb”—did she say that?

Gena Hamshaw: She actually said, “you’ll still eat lamb, right?” While that movie abounds with stereotype a lot of them are very close to the truth.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s too funny. We say that a lot. We love the actress Andrea Martin. She was the one who said that in the movie when the future son-in-law…she was an aunt of the bride to be or something…he said “I’m a vegetarian” and she said “What no meat? That’s ok I’ll make lamb.”

Gena Hamshaw: Exactly.

Caryn Hartglass: We say that all the time and it’s true. She’s since learned the difference, I imagine?

Gena Hamshaw: Yes.

Caryn Hartglass: There’s a lot of Greek foods that are vegetarian and raw.

Gena Hamshaw: I think it really depends on the kind of Greek food. In popular magazines, the Greek or Mediterranean diet is like cannellini beans and tomatoes and olive oil and greens and fish. That is certainly a huge part of Greek food. The Greek food that I was raised on was the sort of heavier home cooking side of Greek food. There was a ton of lamb and keftedes burgers and kasseri cheese and lots of pastry. Greek food can also be incredibly rich. I think if you’re looking at particular kinds of Greek food, yeah, of course there are wonderful salads, lots of delicious dips and spreads and mezze or appetizers. It’s really easy to eat at a Greek restaurant if you eat a plant-based diet that’s for sure.

Caryn Hartglass: Now you also mention early on in your book your story where you finally acknowledge you had an eating disorder.

Gena Hamshaw: Mmm hmmm.

Caryn Hartglass: And you’ve made peace with your food.

Gena Hamshaw: I have and it took a long time. My journey into plant-based eating was a huge part of it which is interesting because I think oftentimes it’s assumed that people with eating disorder history really shouldn’t be eating any kind of diet that’s selective, if you will, or excludes any foods because eating everything is supposedly an important part of the recovery process. For me actually connecting with the ethics and the meaning and the value of my food through veganism really invested food with a particular kind of beauty that I had never seen in the food I ate before. It was what helped me recover. I think that recognizing that my food choices went outside of just me and me alone—they impact the environment, animals and the food system at large. That helped me see eating as a way of making choices that could actually do active good in the world. The effect of all these things was to really shift my relationship with food away from being this kind of guilty, shameful thing that I had always felt about eating to being an act that I felt a lot of joy around. It was a long process. I had an eating disorder for a very long time and I relapsed a couple of times but really after I discovered a plant-based diet I was and I have remained relapse-free which is really wonderful.

Caryn Hartglass: That’s a beautiful story and I’m glad.

Gena Hamshaw: Thank you.

Caryn Hartglass: The relapse thing is kind of the scary part.

Gena Hamshaw: Sure, it is and eating for recovery, as I always say to people, is a long winding road. We sort of want there to be a clear end point one day, a before and after. I was sick then, I’m recovered now. For most people it’s an ongoing process. Anyone with an eating disorder has to remember that relapse is always possible so we have to remain accountable and keep all of our tools that we use to support ourselves in place whether that’s therapy or having your friends, your partners, your family help keep you accountable. I am always very conscious and aware the fact that relapse can happen but that’s also part of why I pay so much attention to my relationship with food. I really work to take care of my body through food and I have a lot of tools in my life that I’ve created to help me stay healthy.

Caryn Hartglass: This is something that applies to everything. Everyone has their challenges. Everybody has their issues and the ones that thrive and succeed are the ones that have a toolbox and the ones that have a strategy and the ones that are mindful and recognize what is going on.

Gena Hamshaw: Absolutely…people who are conscious of the problem. Because you know you’re right, an eating disorder or an addiction, some sort of tendency, whatever difficulty it is that you face in your life is having that set of tool system… I really appreciate what you say—it goes well beyond food.

Caryn Hartglass: I’m really into prevention when it comes to illnesses and we do see a lot more eating disorders especially amongst young women. Do you have any ideas on how we might prevent those from happening?

Gena Hamshaw: Absolutely…a couple of things. One thing that’s so important is we live in a culture where it’s just very ok to openly talk about body and appearance. I think there’s probably too much conversation surrounding this. What triggered my eating disorder was, you know, teasing as a kid…also the fact that people just felt it was ok. I had been a very healthy kid growing up. I gained a little bit of weight when I was just about ready to enter my teen years like a lot of pre-teens do. It probably would have come off with time but I was going through a phase where I was a little heavier. The commentary was what triggered it. One thing that I’ve noticed through recovery, through relapsing is that there is this ongoing commentary about the way people talk about the way other people look and I think that really needs to change. That sort of body commentary needs to be curtailed in a big way. I also think that encouraging young women to take pleasure in their food is so important. I hear from a lot of people who have eating disorders through my website because I write about mine so often and so many of them say what started their relationship with food on a bad track whether it was an eating disorder or binge eating, anorexia, whatever was at some point someone had made them feel bad about their appetite or bad about the fact they like to eat.

Caryn Hartglass: Well we end on a happy note. We’ve come to the end of the program Gena and I thank you for writing Choosing Raw. It’s beautiful with great pictures by Hannah Kaminsky and delicious, delicious recipes. I’m happy to hear about your journey. Find out more about Gena at Thank you Gena.

Gena Hamshaw: Thank you.

Transcribed by Suzanne Kelly 10/21/2014

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