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Reaction to yesterday's postings from MNB users about California Proposition 37, which would mandate the labeling of GMO ingredients in foods...

MNB user Rosemary Fifield wrote:

In today's discussion about Prop 37, Stacy Bergmann makes statements as though they are facts but has the details glaringly wrong. GMOs are not simple hybrids from two original seeds. Their genetic material has been artificially inserted using technology and often includes material from a different species - genetic combinations that would never occur in nature. The soy, corn, canola, and sugar beets mentioned have had either Bt toxin-making ability (extracted from a bacterium) or pesticide resistance artificially inserted into their genome. None of it came from another seed, and none of it is natural.

As far as labeling products as "all natural," that is a completely bogus, unregulated, undefined term that tells the consumer nothing. Just by the statement "I don't see them as being unnatural at all--still a seed" Bergmann perfectly illustrates the value of the term "natural." Manufacturers use it as they see fit.

MNB user Neil Garrett wrote:

Very interesting debate on GMO labeling. Like you Kevin and some readers that have responded, I also believe transparency is required.  The fact that an ingredient is genetically modified should be listed on the product label.  Also like you, I think this shouldn’t become a punishment for retailers nor a “cash cow” for lawyers who take advantage of unfit legislation.  The initial genetic tinkering with corn had to do with making it unappealing to some pest. Same is true for tomatoes--unlike milk in which the cows are genetically manipulated to produce a greater volume.

As a consumer, I want to know IF a particular type of produce I'm buying is engineered and for what purpose. The grocer should have that info supplied by the grower and the label - without explanation - should indicate GMO ingredients in the product. A consumer who was interested could look it up on the seed-producer's website to learn what type of alteration has been applied to those seeds and for what purpose.  Here, the consumer also shoulders responsibility for his or her own education, not solely the grocer.

There is a compelling concern for grocers regarding California’s Prop 37 initiative as illustrated in your column.  However, instead of whining about it and crying foul, industry leaders should understand what’s coming and prepare.  Spend some time and money now educating the public and advocating for their needs by proposing reasonable solutions instead of taking a wait-and-see approach and spending all that time and money (and much more) after the legislation has passed.  It’ll be cheaper in the end and the goodwill earned will far outweigh the costs.

I wrote yesterday in my commentary:

I continue to believe that GMO labeling is a good idea, and that ultimately, consumers want to know or at least ought to have access to information about what is in their foods.

I do believe that there probably is a better way to achieve it than the California bill. I don't think retailers ought to bear the burden of providing accurate information, because most of them don't actually make most of the stuff they sell. They are dependent on others to provide them with accurate information. I also believe that there ought to be provisions in the California rules that prevent attorneys from becoming the big winners ... maybe a two-year moratorium on any GMO labeling-related lawsuits, just to allow manufacturers some time to get things right.

I also would agree with the suggestion that this ought to be a national effort, not a local effort. As a part of that, I'd like to see a major industry proposal that supports a comprehensive GMO labeling program that makes sense for consumers as well as the industry.

The problem is that a lot of folks probably don't expect the industry to support such a thing. And so they are left with the California proposal, which seems to them like it is better than nothing. And so they support it.

Which led MNB user Mike Franklin to write:

If the industry took the lead on this issue…the State would not have to intervene.

Exactly my point.

Responding to our piece about Walmart deciding to no longer sell Amazon's Kindle, MNB user Dan Graham wrote:

I'm sure the folks at Amazon were not at all surprised by Wal Mart's decision to stop selling the Kindle. I do believe, however, that if consumers cannot see and touch the Kindle before making a purchase decision sales will be negatively impacted. Since I'm sure the Amazon team understand this as well, could we be seeing Amazon retail outlets/showrooms soon? I envision a location that features display models and helpful Amazon associates, but no inventory.  Orders would be fulfilled from Amazon distribution centers with either same day or next day delivery.

There still are some retailers, like Best Buy, that sell the Kindle.

And I get your point.

But ... I've bought two Kindles over the years. In neither case had I actually held one in my hands or seen it "live." I bought them from Amazon, online. And I suspect that most of Amazon's Kindles have been bought in precisely the same way.

On another subject, MNB user Lisa Bosshard wrote:

On my drive home yesterday (which is long and traffic filled), I came upon a small pick up whose truck bed was loaded to nearly overflowing with cellophane wrapped phone books.  This led me to think about obsolete business models and the last time I received a phone book, which by the way was just two weeks previous.   What did we do with the said phone book?  We promptly threw it into our recycle bin.   In the world of becoming obsolete, who does it and why are we still printing phone books?  It seems to me that a homeowner should have the ability to 'opt' out of receiving a phone book, because while they make good foot rests, I can't honestly think of any reason to use one these days.  Instead, how many trees are we killing to produce something which is provided at no cost to neighborhoods with no thought to whether it should be done at all?  Seems like such a waste of natural (but limited) resources.  I'm sure it's a job for folks, but really we're still printing and distributing phone books?   Even my mother who is retired and not the most computer literate person can look up addresses and phone numbers on the web.  While I understand there may be a need for some folks to have a phone book, it would make more sense to provide a method to opt out if you have no need.  Just wondering how many more years I'll come home to find a couple of phone books on my porch...

Just another example of a business model moving into obsolescence...

Something we all need to avoid.
KC's View: