business news in context, analysis with attitude

Responding to yesterday's story about Walmart's decision to sell genetically modified corn, and my comment that in view of the lack of labeling of such products, I found this development to be less than reassuring, one MNB user wrote:

Regarding the benefits of using GMO’s.  My cynical side kicks in when I read that the people who designed the GMO corn, Monsanto, also make Roundup, the weed killer it’s resistant to.  And now that farmers can use it with impunity, sales of Roundup have increased tremendously.  Not to mention that the corn is a hybrid and cannot reproduce so famers must buy seed every year.  Kind of like a rural version of the company store.

MNB user Peggy Long wrote:

I'm a supporter of GMO research and products.  Yes, we won't know for years (maybe hundreds of years) if there is any health impact from these products, but having a pesticide license opened me up to the chemicals that farmers use to increase yield and improve their crops.  And, a product that uses less chemical to produce a food product, I think is a good thing.  So, it's not the GMO part of this equation, nor is it the chemical part of this equation (as both are now a part of our food chain), but it is the LABELING which is critical.  So that consumers can make informed choices.

And another MNB user wrote:

Please don't by in to this "the other side of the story" thinking that passes for "balance" in the mainstream media! There has not been a single GMO corn produced that has been proven to with stand drought better than conventional corn. It's not the seed, it's the soil that matters.

BTW...this reader offered a link on the subject that is worth reading.

One MNB user wrote:

I just wanted to bring it to your attention that genetically modified produce is in fact labeled as such, you just have to know a little about PLU labels.

He sent along a picture of a PLU label noting that any five digit code starting with an 8 means that it is genetically modified ... but that strikes me as so obscure as to be useless to the typical consumer.

MNB user Steven Ritchey wrote:

About GM foods, I think it’s important we look at both sides.  Most advances in science come about because of a specific need.  The need for more efficient transportation, more efficient means to generate and transport  electricity, and maybe the need to more efficiently grow crops and have them be more disease, pest and drought resistant.  Admittedly the law of unintended consequences has reared it’s ugly head with some of  our “scientific advances”, but I think it’s extremely important we always look at both sides.

From another reader:

Keep agonizing!  It's always the what-you-don't-know that'll kill you.

And still another reader offered:

I agree two sides to every story but, can you say Soylent Green?

As always, extra credit for the movie reference...

On the subject of the new pay packaged awarded to Supervalu's new president/CEO Wayne Sales, one MNB user wrote:

As a former associate, and someone who still has a personal stake in the company (namely a family member that is still employed with them), all I can say is  “WTF!?!”   I know of MANY instances over the  years where there have not only been NO bonuses – but NO salary increases for many associates working in the banners.  Yet this guy gets MILLIONS in his first year?!?  No wonder the company is failing – they can’t get their priorities straight!!

On the subject of the impromptu "sex show" that two amorous customers put on in a Kansas Walmart, one MNB user wrote:

Perhaps, just perhaps, Kansas is rediscovering its cultural hotbed of left-wing populism from the late 19th century...

Another reader wrote:

Maybe the amorous couple in the Kansas Wal-Mart were just the latest in a flailing marketing campaign from Bentonville.  You know - like the opposite of a flash mob?  And maybe they intended to pay for the product they picked up before leaving, kind of like when you open a soda while you're shopping with every intention of paying for it, but you're just SO thirsty...

You never know.

But, from another MNB user:

Really?  That is worth reporting?

Absolutely. I can't resist stories like that.

(Are you kidding? I had a headline yesterday with the words "sex show" and "Walmart" in the same sentence. I'd be willing to bet that half my readers went to that story first...)

On another subject, MNB user Bill Hilson wrote:

The comparison of Stew Leonard's to Fairway is a bit stretched, other than the fact they both started as family-owned operations. Stew's has struggled to carry 9,000 SKUs while Fairway, at it's smallest stores, carried over 40,000 SKUs. The new Fairway stores carry around 90,000 SKUs. You are comparing a few apples to bushels of fresh organic apples.

The comparisons won't end there... Stew Leonard;s has most of their meat in plastic vacuum packaging, where Fairways have real butcher shops. I could go on...

Stew's enjoys a great location, a measure of entertainment for child-burdened shoppers, and a reasonable value proposition if all you need are the basics. The newer Fairways are temples built to honor the value-minded foodies looking to eat beyond the ordinary while still on a budget. Sure, the new stores are different from the sawdust-on-the-floor beginnings on 74th Street at Broadway; they are better in every way.

I think the bulk of my comparison related to the fact that both companies started as family-owned businesses, and that while Stew Leonard's has maintained control by remaining so, Fairway has expanded much faster - and with some risk, in my mind - by taking private equity money and now planning an IPO. They are both perfectly legitimate ways of doing business ... but different, and worth comparing.

I would also quibble with your characterization of Stew Leonard's "struggling" to carry more SKUs ... I think that has been a specific choice. And I think describing Fairway as a "temple" may be in itself a bit of a stretch. It's a very good store.

I know that my house is pretty much the same distance for Stew Leonard's and Fairway, going in opposite directions. For almost 30 years, I've been happily going to Stew Leonard's ... and while I do go to Fairway from time to time, I can't say that it was such a fabulous experience that it changed a three-decade habit. (And I know that on a Saturday afternoon, it is still harder to get a parking space at Stew Leonard's...)
KC's View: