Published on: October 6, 2010
I continue to get email weighing in on the debate about genetically modified food (prompted by the FDA’s consideration of GM salmon as being fit for human consumption).
One MNB user wrote:I read your piece on GM crops and animals and was a little surprised that you are so pro science on this one. The first response that you posted does a great job of summarizing many of my concerns by someone that appears to have a lot more facts than I do.
If you have not watched "Food Inc." I strongly recommend that you do. There are references in this posting that may have come from the movie. While it's a little disturbing how much of our food supply is corn based and how much of the corn is GM, the most disturbing things I learned about in the movie is how Monsanto uses their team of lawyers to basically force their technology on almost everyone and how much pesticide is being used on our food supply.
You seem to be OK with GM food as long as it's labelled (I've read that 70% of what we eat has some GM components in it so pretty soon food = GM). Your olive oil story shows how labeling has it's shortcomings. I think it's relatively easy to see if GM food is safe to eat compared to the huge task of determining the long term affect of these changes on the ecosystem. Humans have caused problems all over the world by simply transporting animals from one place to another, intentionally or not, because the new animals destroy the balance that existed before their introduction. New Zealand is a great example. Many flightless birds evolved there because they had no predators. Add some cats, dogs and other small predators and now humans are trying to protect the birds that cannot fly away from these new predators.
Just imagine if a fish that grows twice as fast is it's non-GM cousin gets into the wild and it is able to reproduce. I suspect that it will dominate the natural species very quickly and drive it to extinction and maybe it will eat twice as fast to grow twice as fast and wipe out it's own food source.
This may become very clear in the near future. I read that the genetic changes that Monsanto made to the corn to make it resistant to Roundup have started showing up in some weeds. Funny how nature works, those kinky plants. If that is true then who will Monsanto sue when the weeds start taking over the corn fields?
I completely agree that we are screwing with complex systems that we know very little about and that are very difficult to model. Letting corporations that can barely see beyond the end of the next quarter make these decisions is a recipe for disaster. Plus your argument for using the tools we discover with science also justifies atomic weapons and many other things that are less complex than the environment. It's the unintended consequences that worry me. Sure, we stopped WWII but made the world a whole lot more complicated.
I thought I was saying that if it can be demonstrated that GM salmon was safe to eat, it makes sense to make it available...as long as it is labeled as such. I didn’t know I was justifying atomic weapons...
Another MNB user wrote: I was surprised by your apparent acceptance of GM foods as long as they are labeled as such (at least that is how I read what was written). Everything I've read and learned over the past few years about health focuses on modifying what we are putting in our bodies (quality and quantity). I certainly understand that you need to be careful to not alienate sponsors/subscribers, but you do need to see "Food, Inc." ... If it is only half true, it is really scary.
Trusting corporations to do the right thing (or to be prepared if something unexpected happens) is what got us in trouble in the Gulf of Mexico (BP anyone?). I guess the real problem is that most of your readers work for (or run) organizations that are slowly killing us (and that is their mission: sell more Twinkies!). I am saying this only in partial jest. And I don't begrudge you for making a nice living. But really, most consumers are idiots (so are most voters, I fear). To think that they will have the ability to comprehend the complex issues surrounding GM foods is unrealistic. And to think that we'll get the truth from the manufacturers is even more laughable.
I’m sensing a pattern here...
And another MNB user chimed in:IMHO, in regards to GM anything… the more appropriate quote of the Ian Malcolm character from the movie Jurassic Park might be.. “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”
All points worth thinking about.
I would hardly describe myself as intransigent on this issue. I don’t think that my opinions are being formed by who my readers and/or sponsors are, but rather by a concern that the salmon not be rejected by a kind of knee-jerk anti-science attitude. But perhaps I am giving the FDA too much credit ... maybe there is little chance that in this political environment any sort of logical conclusion can be reached. And maybe I’ve been thinking of genetic engineering as being done by scientists, when it is really being driven by accountants and marketers.
As I said, worth thinking about.
Reacting to A&P’s decision to stop paying its rent on leases it owns in the Detroit area, I suggested that this is yet another indication that A&P is a “dead company walking.”
Which led one MNB user to write:I have truly enjoyed following your writing for years and have never once commented, but I'm concerned that you seem to have developed a default tone lately when it comes to A&P. With every piece of news you curate, it's another "See? What did I tell you?" opportunity. Look back over your recent mentions. Certainly much of the news hasn't been good--but in terms of your editorial position, It seems you've already written the obituary and now you're just waiting to prove yourself correct. In the past, you've never struck me as that kind of (content) guy.
I know this is your "view," not journalism per se, but with this platform you've created, comes the responsibility to at least "do no evil" --and since you've no doubt got financial analysts, employees and suppliers as part of your audience, I think you may have stepped over that line.
Think about it...
Do you think there's much of an opportunity to sublease stores and warehouses in that vibrant and growing DMA? Now or next year? Or the next ten years?
How about you and me get us a great management team, go in there and launch a new grocery chain, right now? Or expand an existing one using secondary, failed locations? Think we could rustle up some VC funding on that? Shall we mortgage the house?
Are you in?
Yes, people need to eat in Detroit and a great store concept can always succeed and the auto industry is in a healthy rebound, but you get my point.
It would occur to me that they have been paying on these dark leases for three years--that's got to be millions of dollars per year.
If a company that is clearly in a turn around has to make tough decisions, that's money that could be better spent against initiatives that contribute to a better customer experience in neighborhoods where there is a reasonable opportunity for a return on investment. Millions of dollars that must be driven into better pricing, better products, better facilities.
In the interest of full disclosure, my organization does some work with A&P. My View: The management team is finally doing what probably should have been done two years when the economy was really, really in a bad way. Of course hindsight is 20-20, but it wouldn't have even a blip on your or anyone else's radar to walk from these leases then. Since that didn't happen, the new team is going about making this a viable, relevant brand by making some difficult choices. But it isn't necessarily a cascade into oblivion. You live in the Northeast. You owe it to your readers to go walk a couple of the new stores that have opened in just the last few months. Journalists should resist the temptation to do all their reporting from behind their computer screens, don't you think? The new stores absolutely rival the very best from their primary competition in those neighborhoods. When you walk those facilities and talk to those customers, you definitely don't sense "dead company walking." The pricing is rationalized, the assortment is better; stores are cleaner; there's an enhanced private label program; customers are rating the store better on important attributes. There's lots of positive stories and a great team working 24/7 to turn this thing around. Doesn't feel like anyone is throwing in the towel to me.
I've always been a glass half full guy Kevin, but I'm starting to believe there is a real possibility that we will look back and see that this was A&P's finest hour. And you know how much we Americans love come from behind stories. Obviously your experience tells you that things are headed a certain way, based on what you see. But what if they aren't? Wouldn't you hate to miss that?!
For the record, I do occasionally get into A&P stores. I get out from behind my computer screen as often as I can.
Could I be wrong about A&P? Sure. I actually hope I am wrong. I’ve eaten crow before, and I’ll eat it again.
I continue to believe that eventually, A&P will be sold to some company looking to either expand an existing presence in the northeast, or get a presence where it does not have one.
This does mean that I have no respect for the people who work at A&P. Far from it. But I think they’ve dug themselves a hole that is almost impossible to get out of, that the brand name has very little equity left.
Responding to Michael Sansolo’s piece yesterday about the management techniques of Buck Showalter of the Baltimore Orioles, MNB user Ernie Monschein wrote:Good article and I agree on Showalter. He has proven leadership skills and knows how to set up the proper conditions and environment for players to motivate themselves. The simple lesson is, it’s not just about qualifications and talent, Chemistry, motivation and morale are also essential ingredients to team success both in sports and business. Showalter set the right conditions for success in the right situation. He listened, set expectations, communicated clearly and rewarded good performance with playing time. So often these basic tenets are neglected when times get tough and the “you’re lucky to have a job” syndrome again rears its ugly head. Buck knows fear only works as a motivator in the short run – it’s not a practical way to build a powerful and dynamic organization. Needless to say, the same is true in business where this same mistake gets repeated again and again.
I will be curious to see how Buck’s approach works with the Orioles’ investment shy owner, Peter Angelos. That will be a true test.
MNB yesterday took note of a USA Today
report that Frito-Lay is planning to “quietly” stop using a biodegradable Sun Chips bag that it launched to “great fanfare” 18 months ago, but that was widely criticized because it was so noisy.
According to the story, “The company is returning them to their former bags that can't be recycled — but won't wake the neighbors — while it works frantically to come up with a new, quieter eco-friendly bag.”
One MNB user responded:Really? People care about the noise over the greater good of the bag’s eco friendly ways? People have way too much time on their hands and care more about blogging and social networking complaints, getting an unwanted voice out in my opinion. It’s pathetic.
Another MNB user wrote:So, we want to be socially responsible and "save the planet," just so long as it doesn't make it too difficult for us to hear the television. Got it.
We reported yesterday about a Brand Keys annual survey of top 50 branded loyalty leaders, and notes that retailers make up 16 percent of the list - with Walmart coming in at number three, exceeded only by the Apple iPhone and Samsung cell phones (#1 and #2 respectively for the second consecutive year).
Amazon.com came in at number seven, with Target at number 26, Sam’s Club at number 29, and BJ’s at number 42.
I commented, in part:No matter how they quantify and qualify these kinds of surveys and studies, the results are subjective and reflect the biases and priorities of the organizations conducting them. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that we had a global branding survey that didn’t even mention Walmart in the top 100?
What I think is more important than ever is for retailers to exploit their own brand potential, both in terms of the products they carry and the image and services that they present to the consuming public. It isn’t enough to simply market other people’s brands.
The good news is that more than ever, retailers get this.
I also think, however, that people who do not believe that Walmart is a powerful global brand may be kidding themselves.
One MNB user responded:I was curious a few years back about why the various “Brand Rating” lists included some brands and not others and had the rating of brands in different positions. I researched approximately six of the top read “brand rating” services. What I found was very interesting. Each of these ranking companies develop their own list of “brand equity requirements” and weight them based on their “brand attribute importance perspective.” (These are the subjective issues to which you refer.) They then gather all the available company data to answer their “brand equity requirements” and rank the brands based on their findings. (this is the objective portion of the process.)
In no case does any individual “Brand Ranking” service identify strong brands, they only identify brands that rank high on their perceived definition of what A STRONG BRAND should be. Their definition may or may not be correct, but when they release the list, they fail to describe the “underlying qualifications” of their definition, leaving many industry experts scratching their heads and saying, “WTH.”
So, in essence, I just said what you said in your response, “No matter how they quantify and qualify these kinds of surveys and studies, the results are subjective and reflect the biases and priorities of the organizations conducting them. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that we had a global branding survey that didn’t even mention Walmart in the top 100?” But, I thought I would add the findings of my hours of research into these companies. Lesson Learned: Just because it is written, and scientific, doesn’t make it true…lessons we can take with us when we read “scientific findings” about GM products…HFCS…rBST…etc. The truth may not be what is written, even though it is cloaked in the art of science.
MNB user Chuck Burns wrote:Kmart didn't believe Wal-Mart would ever become more than a small southern regional retailer either.
MNB user Garry E. Adams wrote:I think how you define “brand” is why there is such a discrepancy in the rankings. I do not consider Walmart a brand. They are certainly the #1 retailer. I consider Coke, Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks, Harley Davidson, etc… brands because they make something a little unique within their markets.
Walmart doesn’t really make anything. They just do a great job of making a lot of things available at a great price.
I didn’t know that “making things” was the requirement for being a recognizable brand with consumer equity.
And, responding to the coverage of FTC attempts to tamp down on the claims being made by the manufacturers of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, one MNB user offered:This is a product I started using about 3 years ago when I was diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation (A-FIB). Since using the product my general health has improved greatly. Without going into detail, for me, this product helped like nothing else I had tried short of surgery. It also helped my friends with similar conditions every time it was recommended and tried. The government can say what they want. For me and my friends...it works...so we will continue on.
As for sex life, personally great, but already had high marks in that area.
To hell with the FTC. Pass the Pom.