Published on: January 23, 2015
Got the following email on a familiar subject from MNB reader Peter H. Grimlund:I don’t get the whole anti-GMO thing. Having a BS in Microbiology from a reputable university that included genetics in the base curriculum, I have a difficult time seeing the difference between new varieties of plants being created using more traditional cross breeding techniques to select for specific traits versus directly splicing into the genome the desired trait. What takes decades or even centuries to accomplish with the former can be accomplished rapidly with modern technologies. Isn’t that good? Both processes can result in the same variety, the latter is just a more direct route to the desired outcome. And if you can create the new variety by both methods with the only differentiation being the time it takes to accomplish it based on different methodologies than why is one labeled as being a GMO and the other not? Doesn’t make sense to me. I would rather have the benefit of new variety sooner rather than later. Wouldn’t everyone?
I think the simple and obvious answer to your last question is "no."
Think of this as an absence of trust in the companies in the GMO business. Think of it as a desire for transparency on the part of people who want to know what is in their food.
Because here's the deal. Even if someone accepts everything you said as being accurate, that someone could also say that they'd like the presence of GMOs in their food to be labeled and explained.
That doesn't strike me as too much to ask for. Though I concede that not everybody feels that way.
Responding to the story about the US Supreme Court refusing to hear a retailer-funded appeal of Federal Reserve rules that some feel make swipe fees for debit card payments too high, MNB reader Andy Casey wrote:Interesting case which can be expected to continue to develop over time as technologies and options come into play. One thing which hasn’t happened (or at least I haven’t noticed) is any reduction of retailer prices which can be attributed to the up to 50% reduction in fees which the Fed did put in place.
I've been disappointed that this story has played out largely in the business pages of newspapers and websites. I think more retailers should have made this case part of their marketing efforts, which might have created some consumer pressure on the Fed to lower swipe fees.
I said from the beginning of this case that retailers ought to make the case that lower fees equal lower prices, and if they didn't, shame on them.
MNB reader Michael Phelan had a different take:Swipe fees, much like payroll, benefits and gasoline up-charges would take care of themselves if retailers trained, empowered and recognized their people.
The smart retailers – names we know who consistently show up on the “Best Companies To Work For” lists - are rarely seen publicly griping about the expenses brought about by the inconvenient problem of customers handing them credit cards and employees looking to advance in their careers.
On another subject, MNB reader Craig Espelien wrote:I am a big PayPal fan – hassle free (and easier) compared to entering a credit card number and an extra layer of protection should something go awry with the purchase. This week, however, I had something happen that had never happened before. I was buying a product from a web site that offered PayPal as a payment option and when I selected it, there was a 24 cent surcharge for PayPal. This was a site/business located in the UK – and the price on the item I purchased was so good that the extra 24 cents (1% of the purchase price) did not matter. A bit of an Eye Opener – as this, to me, is sort of like getting charged a surcharge when using a credit card (another interesting fact is that the Minnesota DMV adds a surcharge if you pay by credit card – no extra fee if you pay by cash or check).
Thought you might find that interesting.
I do. Everybody wants to wet their beak. It is a short path, apparently, from Johnny Sack to the Minnesota DMV.
On the subject of Amazon at least temporarily getting out of the private label diapers business, one MNB user wrote:I would offer another eye opener for Amazon. When moving into your own brand, ensure that you populate your sourcing team with individuals who have expertise in the product line(s) that you plan to source. Private brand diapers are available throughout the retail universe with high levels of consumer acceptance.
Whether diapers or any other consumer product, the indisputable fact is that price + quality = value!
And from another:I agree that the credit should help some, but parents of babies in general are very protective. I didn’t try the diapers (no babies or grandbabies) so I don’t know the issues, but sore, irritated bums and messy clothes or blankets are a big deal to babies and their parents. It would take a very convincing sales pitch to get me to try them again and probably someone else’s child as the guinea pig.
And still another:The very best retailer in the business is Costco. If they are going to put their Kirkland Signature name on a product, the quality has to be equal to or better than a national brand, to go along with a great value to their Costco Club member.
Evidently, Amazon has a little ways to go to understand PL branding for some products, especially items that have to do with babies and personal hygiene.
I continue to get email about the Seahawks-Packers game. One MNB reader wrote:I am a Packer fan and felt that, while the Seahawks (as you so correctly noted) never gave up and kept the pressure on (and also tried multiple things to disrupt the game), the Packers started playing to “Not Lose” in the first half. This mentality – rather than playing to Win – is what I feel cost them the game. Never ever let up – imagine what would have happened if the Packers had scored two touchdowns instead of field goals and if the one interception the corner back had not slid but had kept running? In the regular season running up the score is frowned upon – but in the playoffs, if your foot is on the opponents through – keep pushing!
And another:Think about it. The game was over, so many thought. The Seahawks and the coaches never gave up. The Fat Lady was humming, but not singing. The Hawks got a TD, an on side kick that they recovered, scored another TD, a fake field goal, great call by Carroll, as nobody on the Packers saw that one coming, TD. OT, the Hawks and Carroll said, :Let’s put the nail in the coffin against Green Bay. The call, a pass into the end zone, result the winning TD, and the Fat Lady was singing to the top of her lungs.
The Seahawks won the game, because of their players attitude, a little luck on one play, but won the game because they believed they could still win. Green Bay and Seattle players and coaches are professionals. One team was outplayed and outcoached, and the result was one team lost and one team won. Nobody gave the game away.
FYI, I have been a lifelong Packer fan, but I will always root for any west coast team when it comes to the big games.
I got a lot of email responding to a couple of stories yesterday in which I commented about an improving economy.
One MNB user wrote:I take some what offense to the statement that, and I'm paraphrasing, companies that raised prices during the high gas periods should lower their prices now. That, sir, is extremely simplistic and very misleading. There are so many factors that contribute to the cost of goods for a product that, just focusing on transportation, is narrowing the perspective. For example, coconut oil and products. They are widely used components of many products. The tragic events in the Philippines, a major supplier of this product, had nothing to do with the fluctuation of gas prices. But yet the cost of this product continues to rise due to lack of supply. Cost of grains, weather, wages, benefits, cardboard, etc. all affect cost of goods. Oh, how about rising margins in the grocery industry.
I value your opinions and comments, but please, don't just look through the peep hole, when the entire door must be open to see the room.
From MNB reader Mark Heckman:Kevin, the so called “Great Recession” was officially over when the current administration took office and bailouts for the major financial players were already in place. However, this has been the most anemic and lethargic recovery of any modern day recession. We can argue why that is and what policies and practices are perpetuating the economic malaise, but it is clearly about more than “perceptions”. People are actually being pinched. While some aspects of the economy have improved marginally, household income remains lower today than it was in 10 years ago. Most of the job growth has been either part-time or in lower paying service industry jobs. Further, the latest weekly filing for unemployment benefits was over 300,000, far from the kind of numbers that an improving economy would yield. A record number of people are now using Food Stamps and while the unemployment % is coming down, the labor department is showing workforce participation remains in the low 60% range…again the lowest rate in decades. Despite world wide demand for oil has driven prices at the pump down, food inflation is still tracking at 3-4% annually and some commodities like beef are up in price nearly 20% over last year.
I do not see the Republican Congress and the White House agreeing on much over the next two years. That means little or no change to the current economic realities. This translates into deals and promotions remaining necessary for most retailers to maintain market share. Margins will remain tight, especially in certain food categories. While perceptions sometimes do not reflect reality, with respect to the U.S. economy for most Americans, they are mirror images of each other.
And from another reader:Kevin, you commented, “But I'm not surprised that people aren't spending away ... the depth and length of the Great Recession has a lot of people figuring that it ain't permanent.”
I cringe every time I hear about how the economy is improving and wonder, “for whom is it improving?” I just had lunch yesterday with two friends that I have known for a couple of decades. Of the three of us, I’m the only one fully employed. One has been out of work for the better part of two years and does temp work to survive. The other has been out of work for a year and has a grand collection of rejection letters. Both are educated, professionally experienced, bright, capable women. Neither show up in unemployment statistics because they are “expired.” All of us are over 50. They don’t feel that their employment prospects are good because of their ages.
I’m afraid that if I were to ever lose my current job, I wouldn’t find another job either. (Fortunately, I work for a good company, like my job, and it’s going well – knock on wood.) And even though all of us have contributed to retirement accounts for decades, we all worry about having enough money to live on in our old age. The statisticians may be able to manipulate the numbers to make it look rosy; but for a lot of us, we feel the Great Recession IS permanent.
I don't think most people would argue with the notion that the economic recovery has been thin, that middle class salaries have remained stagnant, that too many people are under-employed, and that there remains much economic uncertainty out there - hence the fact that people are being careful with the extra cash in their pockets that they are saving on gasoline.
That said ... it seems patently unfair to suggest that there hasn't been a recovery and that the economy hasn't gotten better in the last six years. It has. Not for everyone, certainly, but there are a lot of people doing a lot better today than six years ago.
Let's forget the political aspect for a moment. (I have as big a problem with Democrats who refuse to give Republicans any credit for anything as I do with Democrats who won't give members of the GOP any credit for anything.) It seems to me that a lot of the economic problems we have can be traced to the fact the the world has changed. Technology has replaced people in many cases, or made them more productive, which results in job loss. The whole outsourcing, the-world-is-flat trend adds to the problem ... everybody is competing with everybody, which drives down costs and wages. And this doesn't even factor in all the geopolitical issues such as terrorism that can and do impact our economy.
Fixing these problems and winning the game isn't as simple as deflating a few balls to give yourself a competitive advantage ... it requires strategic thinking and tactical moves that the political establishment in this country is not equipped to address.
In many ways, economic advances are probably illusory, and certainly cyclical. You take your advances where you can get them try to be realistic about how deep they are and what caused them, and meanwhile try to figure out how to rejigger the world economy to reflect 21st century realities. (And by the way...it is now 2015. It may not be too early to start thinking about 22nd century realities...)
I wrote yesterday about how dangerous I'm going to find the soon-to-come limited edition Red Velvet Oreos to be, which prompted one MNB user to write:Are you kidding? I would be very surprised if “red velvet” didn’t contain red dyes, which are linked to ADD and other ailments, and “cream cheese flavored” sure doesn’t sound like food to me – what is it with the “food” industry anyway??
First of all, I probably already have ADD. (They just didn't call it that when I was a kid. Rather, the nuns, brothers and priests would just call me incorrigible and/or a hooligan, and then hit me.) So how much worse can red dye make it?
It is a basic fact, I think, that an Oreo is one of the most addictive substances on earth. At least for me. (Twizzlers would be the other.) And I'm reasonably sure that whatever is in the Red Velvet Oreos, they're going to hit the Limbic system of my brain like a freight train.