business news in context, analysis with attitude

We got a number of emails yesterday about the story concerning Wal-Mart’s embracing of long-life light bulbs, and our pledge to use these bulbs through MNB World Headquarters.

MNB user Jimmy Ducey wrote:

I couldn't have been more disappointed in the long life light bulbs. What a hideous light.

Bulb sales should be great this year. We all do the "right thing", run out and buy the new expensive energy saving bulbs. One week later we all run, even faster, back to the store and buy the old bulbs because we like them.

Reminds me of the transfat debate!

At least I'll be helping create jobs when construction starts on the new power plants.

But MNB user Dana Wise wrote:

I have these lights in my home, and love them. It took a little while to get used to the light, but I don't notice any difference now.

Just a few notes on the subject:

1 - I love the ones that output a full spectrum light (daylight). I really like the rooms that have those bulbs, although they are a little more expensive.

2 - In smaller rooms that may have a ceiling fan (and a place for 4-5 bulbs) you should be able to get by with just 2 cfl's. They put out a ton of light! You just have to get over the fact that you have a couple of sockets without bulbs. If you do need to fill every socket, use the lowest possible wattage that you can find (25-40 final light output) for a final output wattage of 100-160. You will rarely need more light than this in any room other than a very large area such as a living room with tall ceilings.

3 - Be prepared to lay down some cash! Just a little math here - I have an 1850 sq ft home with 3 bed 2 bath and a whopping 41 possible sockets. If I were to fill each one with a new bulb at $4-5/bulb that would be $164-205 worth of new cfl's. OUCH!!! You may want to consider just replacing one room at a time, starting with the room that has the lights on the most.

MNB user Tom Brown wrote:

The NY times also reported that GE told Wal-Mart to slow down as they had lots of factories making incandescent.

It is curious that six months ago our local Wal-Mart had imported screw in fluorescents on sale for 71 cents each. I recently went back for more and they only carry the brand name items for $2.50.

Another MNB user wrote:

I switched to fluorescent bulbs years ago. But don't count on switching all of them. Not all lampshades will fit on them. Plus they take a few minutes to warm up to fully luminate. If you use 60 watt bulbs then get the fluorescent that replaces a 100 watt bulb. They often don't provide the level of light they claim to replace.

We got the following email from an MNB user yesterday:

Just my humble opinion but, In your first 2 articles this morning, you seem to have added to my confusion......

On "Cloning", you wrote – “What really concerns us about this decision is the ‘without labeling’ component. It simply doesn’t make sense, especially when applied to an issue that, like it or not, has cultural and social implications that go beyond the scientific and commercial.

But then on "Genetically Modified", you said - “This is what science is all about – using technology to find cures and preventive measures to fight disease. And for all those who think that genetic engineering is a bad idea, developments like this one provide the best argument in favor of genetic modification.”

So, my question is.... what is the difference between these technologies? Is cloning DIFFERENT than, or a part of, genetic engineering? If there is no difference in the milk from a cloned cow, what is there to label? If cloning can one day cure cancer, etc., I would think that's reason enough to pursue it. The article said that a cell was GM'ed , then Cloned, so can this be worse than cloning alone. I would expect GM'ed food to require labeling before simply cloned food. Is cloning simply "intentionally produced twins"?

Having said all this, I must agree with you that "conning" public is NEVER a good idea. It only leads to less trust & we have lost enough of that already. I'm concerned that if we start labeling when there is only fear & not a valid reason, we head down a very slippery slope.

It seems to me, to be the same with irradiation of vegetables. People have been "nuking" food in their homes for decades now. Is there a difference? If so, what is it. We obviously need more research & education, but in the meantime, why can't the FDA, USDA, etc., just EXPLAIN THEMSELVES - and in "simple terms"!

Another MNB user wrote:

I learned a lot of things when I took a Microbiology course, but the best thing I learned during that course in relationship to the spread of Mad Cow and other disease is it would be foolish to think that our FDA and USDA have our best interest at heart, you must make you self knowledgeable, b/c we as the public can in no way expect the govt. to educate us at least not honestly. When they have all the information they can manipulate it any way the want. I would like the FDA to eat the Cloned meat for 20 years first just to make sure it's safe.

MNB user Steve Richards wrote:

Both meat and milk from cloned animals could be safe to eat but so are organic food products and wild caught/farm raised seafood products. We require organic and wild caught/farm raised labeling in the interest of full disclosure. The concept of full disclosure in labeling must have slipped past the FDA on this issue. As a consumer, I want to be able to make intelligent decisions on the food products that I consume and full disclosure/transparency in labeling gives me the information to make those decisions. This is the USA, land of the free and home of the brave; not Russia. Consumers have rights and those rights include knowing what is in a product that we consume. Product labeling provides us with the information that we need to make an intelligent choice and that information is being denied us in the case of cloning. Amazing!

Still another MNB user wrote:

I won't try to debate what the downside to this could be, instead I'd rather focus on the fact that proactive testing of cattle for BSE by the beef industry could also be a way to create BSE-free product right now, but the government will not allow it. Instead only animals suspected of being infected with BSE can be tested. Interesting strategy.

And MNB user Cleve Young wrote:

I am all for transparency and proper labeling. But when is enough too much? Your comment on labels for meat and milk from cloned animals are valid, that honesty is the best policy, and that transparency is the right thing to do. So we label products cloned or cloned-free. What else? Your next article talked about genetic engineering to prevent BSE; so we obviously have to label meat and dairy genetically engineered for transparency sake. But we also would need to label the different types of engineering and how many genes were “adjusted”. Was it 1 or 2 or 20? We also need to label whether the meat/dairy is free-range or not. And whether it is organic or not, and with the evolving marketplace of organics what classification of organic it is (we all know that is coming)? How about antibiotics-free, or hormone-free? Were the ranchers/farmers using acceptable sustainable land practices? And of course we need to label it based upon the economic fairness to the workers involved; were the people cleaning the stalls given health insurance and a “living wage”?

The packaging could potentially need to be much larger to accommodate all of this extra labeling, which would leave more “empty” space inside the packaging (think bags of potato chips). Customers would complain about corporate types ripping them off with false packaging, which would lead manufacturers to increase portion sizes, which would increase the intake of food and calories per person (people eat the whole package whether it’s 2 ounces or 6 ounces). This of course will increase the obesity epidemic and further ruin the lives of Americans.

Am I taking this to the extreme? Of course. But it is a valid question: when is enough labeling enough? Science and evolving farming practices are changing our food supply at a rapid rate. We need to be informed, but what is the best and most effective way to educate consumers? That is one of the key questions facing our industry for the foreseeable future. I’m just not sure loading up a package with 50 notifications is the best way to go.

There are, of course, technologies that make information available to consumers without actually putting the details on a printed label. It’s being used in Japan, where we visited last month…and there’s no reason that we shouldn’t be using the same technologies in the US.

In a piece about Starbucks and unionization yesterday, we noted that our son in a barista there and finds the work to be challenging and renumerative. To which MNB user Linda Wish wrote:

Having difficulty finding "renumerative" in my online dictionaries....

Were you thinking he is well paid? (remunerative) or he gets to count the same numbers over and over again?

Regardless, a young family member of mine also is pleased with her employment there, and has shared with me their theory of the "third place". Work and home being one and two- (in whichever order 🙂 and your refuge of caffeine and relaxation being number three. I think more places of business should consider the overall feeling they are trying to project to their guests.

We fixed the misspelling. And we agree with your family member’s observations.

Finally, we got the following email from MNB user Ted File:

Friends of ours from Denmark, own and operate a furniture manufacturing plant. About 2 years ago they implemented some new programs. Close the plant for 2 weeks of December so families can be together. Have offered to all a health and fitness program at a well-known spa and health facility for each family employed there. Company pays all benefits, and in Denmark that is a lot. Bottom line according to them is that absence from work is about "0" and attitude and productivity has tremendously increased in the past year. Pretty darn good, especially since their business now covers the major stores in Europe and the Orient.

KC's View: