business news in context, analysis with attitude

From MNB reader Mike Sommers:

I think it has been documented from the rise in retailers like Whole Foods, and Natural Grocers like Sprouts Farmers Markets and Natural Grocers/Vitamin Cottage, that people are willing to pay more for non-GMO labeled foods.  And if we want to take this further, a lot of the foods with the 'starches that are in many of our foods simply can't be had in non-GMO versions in sufficient quantities or at reasonable prices', should we be eating these foods in the first place??  US companies that sell their products over seas, let's take Kraft Mac 'n Cheese as example, put on their label which ingredients are GMO.  This should dismiss the thought that it would cost companies a lot of money to change labeling, because clearly it is possible, and even already being done.  For me personally, I want to know if my food has been modified. I want to support retailers that provide products that are labeled non-GMO, or even better, Organic, and not support companies that are trying to hide this fact from me.  I'm not a fan of a few giant corporations owning the majority of food brands that are available, and I will support companies that choose to be transparent.  If GMOs are supposedly harmless, label it, give me the option, and I will decide.

From another reader:

For the record, you are right that you have not been demonizing GMOs.  But that's the nature of the campaign that's being run.  It's not easy to educate against hysteria.  How many people in America still think Obama is a Muslim?

And another:

I agree with you on the GMO labeling issue, largely due to the law of unintended consequences.  So much of our food has been altered that we no longer consume the foods our bodies evolved over eons to consume efficiently.  Our cattle have been re-engineered to be able to process corn, which they didn’t originally, but corn is a cheaper food to feed them, so re-engineer the cow.  We have all kids of altered foods in our system, and we really don’t know what the generational effects of them will be.  We do know that wonderful food supply provides cheap calories, but deficient nutrition, causing epidemic obesity, and a sudden increase of auto-immune disorders, which may or may not be the effects of changes in our food supply.  It’s not what we know, it’s what we don’t know yet that worries people concerned about GMOs, and a growing number of people want to be able to moderate consumption for cautionary reasons.

And still another:

Then you would heartily endorse a statement on products such as “This product contains Genetically Modified Ingredients; the USDA and FDA have studied the impact of GMO ingredients for over 20 years and have found them to have no adverse effects."
Simple transparent and accurate.

I have no particular problem with that. Though I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the USDA and FDA would not want that on the label, because if something foes wrong, they wouldn't want labels out there reminding people that they got it wrong.

Regarding the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) decision to launch a website that promotes the use of GMOs, MNB user Shellie Howe wrote:

If the GMA and its members truly believe this, they should have no issues what so ever in labeling their products.  In fact, they should be promoting GMOs proudly?   This same group also thought tobacco wasn’t harmful……

On the subject of changes in the health care system, one MNB user wrote:

The reader who wrote in support of an open and competitive marketplace for health insurance makes what should be a valid and compelling point:  that in a monopoly situation, there is no incentive to strive for good customer service.   That makes every bit of sense and I’m sure every one of us can point to a multitude of examples to support the truth of that. (I grew up in a small town in rural Ohio.  Many of the merchants were apparently trained on some evil, mirror-universe version of the planet Vulcan judging from their collective attitude of “The needs of the few or the one do NOT outweigh my need for you to either buy what I have or get the **** out of my store, preferably both”.)  However, despite the open and competitive marketplace for health insurance that we have had up to this point, can any of us say that they have had anything but pain and frustration when dealing with any of these companies?  I actually would rather go to my local post office branch than try to deal with a health insurance issue—and, thank God, I’ve never even had to deal with anything catastrophic thus far in life.

From another reader:

I get why you support covering pre-existing conditions but why make parents pay to cover their children until the age of 26? 

As a parent, I've been thrilled that we can cover our kids until they get this old ... if they are working jobs without health care benefits, or have been looking for work in their post-college years, it has given us enormous peace of mind. Health insurance will be their problem soon enough ...

Regarding the Starbucks decision to ask gun owners not to bring their weapons into its stores, MNB user Robert J. Wheaton wrote:

Interesting…….I have a sudden urge to run out to my corner Starbucks and get a cup and maybe tomorrow and the next day, etc.

But MNB user Timothy P. Heyman asked:

When Chick-Fa-Lay's owner made his view about gays known, he was raked over the coals by liberals, told he should keep his personal views out of business etc.  So I ask what is the difference about Starbucks views on guns!?!

I suppose the argument would be that on the one hand there seemed to be a kind of implied discrimination, while in the other it was a matter of securing public safety. But both of these argument could be debated, and I think you make a valid point.

For the record, my position always has been that companies can allow their political/cultural views to be expressed and implemented, but that they have to understand that there will be consequences. I think Starbucks knew exactly what it was doing ... and made an informed, strategic decision.

On a different subject, I love this email from MNB reader Joe Davis:

I’m so fascinated with this wet wipes category and its apparent momentum and shopper reach.  Not to poo-poo the value proposition, but I can’t imagine buying these – the stigma of being seen shopping for them parallels the dreaded guy-errand for the spouse’s tampons.  This latest revelation about not being able to flush them down the toilet seems like a crappy design on the part of the manufacturers.

First, the comment about consumers being smart enough to know how to dispose of them is pretty naïve to me.  But second, who exactly is okay with throwing them in their bathroom waste bin?  That certainly soils the appeal for anyone with sensibilities and/or a spouse.  It doesn’t seem all that eco-mindful either to have greasy bum-wipes making their way to landfills – I’m not in the habit of hugging trees, but the green establishment would be really down in the dump about this. 
I’d have to agree, Kevin – this category might be circling the toilet bowl unless the makers can get something moving that won’t clog pipes...(Pun-tastic)

Bada-boom! But seriously, folks....

Finally, this sort of email warms my heart:

Kevin, I have been reading MNB almost from the beginning and have had read many stories about Etta's.  I'm on vacation in this week in the Seattle area and had lunch there with my wife today.  Etta's was even better than my high expectations.  We had a couple of the seafood items and a great white wine.  All very nice.

Thank you for the recommendation.

My pleasure. Trust me.
KC's View: