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Responding to yesterday's FaceTime about GMO labeling, one MNB user wrote:

I know I'm preaching to the choir here (i.e. you), but I am absolutely dumbfounded by the ruckus that the GMO labeling has caused within this industry. In a world where folks are busy trying to handle challenges as disruptive as private label, flood of smaller, niche brands, local, online retailing, a flux of smaller format competitors, etc. Do manufacturers really want to bicker about a word on a label?

I know that you are a fan of the wine industry and I think theirs is an enlightening case study .Despite the complete lack of evidence that sulfites cause any type of allergic reaction, a grass roots movement was able to get rules passed in 1987 requiring the labeling of sulfites. Many in the wine business were aghast at the absurdity of this requirement given the complete lack of science. The problem has become even murkier now that the organic label is involved, as "Organic" wine cannot have added sulfites, though wine made from organic grapes can. Go figure.

What is clear is that the wine business is healthier than ever, having expanded 20-fold since this "onerous requirement". Likewise, "sulfite-free" wines have never amassed a huge following simply because sulfites are critically important in the winemaking process, and have been so for centuries. Sulfites kill microbes. Only in the hands of a genius are sulfite-free wines drinkable. And I have never, ever, ever found a sulfite-free wine that tasted special. The most common praise I hear is "Not bad for a sulfite-free wine!"

In both cases, folks within these industries were furious because they were being asked to handle something that wasn't supported by science. But you know what, Who cares?There is no science supporting the idea that bottled water is healthier, but that is a multi-billion dollar industry. And REI is more than happy to help you replace your canteen every year when the folk-science of the day decides that "plastics are evil, aluminum is evil, etc"

Put this to rest, label the *%&*! danged foods and get on with more important matters.

From another reader:

Way to go.   Neat, clean and telling it like it is and, I agree, will likely play out.  Let’s get over the lure of obfuscations and get on with honoring the theoretical intent of our labeling laws and move on without further ado and cost.

By the way, the first PR out of the mouths of transparency resisters is the cost to those poor consumers who apparently need their championing.  When it is convenient.

So, why does no one do the math on how much the political lobbying expenses add to the consumer  cost?

MNB reader Ron Rash wrote:

We are involved with this issue on a daily basis, and your views are shared by many.  I certainly cannot argue that it is a bad approach.  It is, in fact, quite reasonable.

However, retailers involved primarily in the organic and natural sector want people to know, with ease of reading, that a product is non-GMO, and I think the fear is that a federal regulation might cave into the larger money interests and prohibit that front panel statement... even if it is not "demonizing."  Call us paranoid, but I believe it is a real fear.

Regardless of federal standards to come, I believe the natural channel will always look for a way to raise bar when it comes to food sustainability, food safety, health, and other environmental considerations.  So this won't be the end all argument or issue, and I believe we would all be better off if more conventional operators would embrace that.  It is interesting that many, if not most, large scale conventional operators also have substantial organic/natural offerings.  Parting ways with manufacturers may not be that easy.

As to cost, I wonder if you have ever been involved in changing labels for a private brands program that may have thousands of items supplied by hundreds of vendors?  It is not easy, and it is not cheap, and the decision as to who owns the obsolete packaging isn't made by a giant CPG firm that sees share of market and economic benefit in making a quick label change.  That said, it is the price of keeping up with ever accelerating changes.

From MNB reader Mike Franklin:

I would accept that compromise.  Must have been a good panel…

P.S. If we are concerned about feeding the world’s starving people…tobacco is planted on ~330,000 acres of farmland…which could supply, if converted, approximately 26.4 million bushels of wheat…it could be a start…and wheat is non-GMO…

MNB user Brian Blank wrote:

I LOVED your paragraph in today’s Face Time about not wanting to hear any whining about the trouble and expense to change packaging. ( I wish I’d said it.) I’d like to add a real life example to the theoretical one you proposed:  Bonus Packs. CPG manufacturers put out bonus packs seemingly at the drop of a hat—all of which involve special labeling (down to the adjustments made to the servings per container on the nutrition panel), and most of which also require specially-sized boxes/bags/bottles/cans.

And, from MNB reader Steve Morris:

I read your thoughts on adding contains GMO’s or Non-GMO’s to the Nutrition Panel.  The Nutrition Panel should stay as a “Nutrition Panel”.  This is more of an ingredient and should be part of the Ingredients.

I mentioned the other day when writing about speakers at a Portland State University/Center for Retail Excellence conference that, though they both work for Cincinnati-based companies (Kroger & P&G), they both had deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, which I said accounted for the perspicacity.

One MNB reader objected:

I do not know how having deep roots in the Pacific Northwest can make one more perceptive but I think I can provide some insight as to the two executives with P&G and Kroger.  I am a lifelong resident of Cincinnati and a past employee of both companies before I help start a research and consulting business.  I don’t think it is just a coincidence that both “new-world” thinkers had a similar message at the same Retail Leadership Forum.  I believe that both P&G and Kroger have benefited from a cross pollination of thinking and learning over the years due to their close proximity.  Their executives serve on the same boards, volunteer for the same charities and play golf at the same country clubs.  Both companies are consumer focused, data driven and excellent marketers that have successfully communicated strong value propositions to their customers.  This is no accident.

Kevin, please give some props to  Cincinnati.   You don’t have to live or work on one of the coasts to be perceptive.  Remember Cincinnati also gave you Graeter’s Ice Cream.

For the record, I was mostly joking …
KC's View: