A new smartphone app is allowing consumers to take a stand against biotech giant Monsanto and the Koch brothers through barcode reading technology that alerts users when a product is associated with either organization.
The Buycott app is the answer to the prayers of food activists and health advocates, who have in the past visited their local grocery store with a paper list of Monsanto-related products to avoid at all cost.
It’s also a tool for consumers to see what food-producing businesses are associated with oil tycoons and conservative campaign political domineers Charles and David Koch, oft-referred to as the Koch brothers, who have a history of secretly funding climate change denial “research” while cashing in on the oil industry.
The new app makes it as easy as pointing a smartphone at a barcode — and its abilities aren’t just limited to identifying Monsanto- and Koch-related products.
Users can sign on to various campaigns, including the Demand GMO labeling campaign, which brings attention to products with owner companies that help fund campaigns working to require foods with genetically-modified ingredients (GMOs) be labeled.
Those aspects of the app could lead users to discoveries they never expected.
Take Dr. Bronner’s soap, for example. No longer simply a soap for environmentalists looking for an all-natural product, the app reveals the company also donated to the GMO labeling campaign.
When the app scans the Dr. Bronner’s barcode, it tells the consumer through the message, “You’re supporting this company,” alongside the label, “Donated $358,882 to support GMO labeling.”
The app also allows consumers to recognize companies that support LGBT-friendly organizations and causes.
The interactive component of the app was an intentional move by the app’s programmer, Ivan Pardo, who wanted it to be an evolving experience for cautious consumers.
“I don’t want to push any single point of view with this app,” Pardo said. “For me, it was critical to allow users to create campaigns because I don’t think it’s Buycott’s role to tell people what to buy. We simply want to provide a platform that empowers consumers to make well-informed purchasing decisions.”
The idea for the app was floated at the 2012 Netroots National Gathering, where former Microsoft programmer Darcy Burner told a crowd of techies that the app would allow consumers to learn the ins-and-outs of products they might purchase.
She used Brawny paper towels and Dixie cups as examples, citing that most consumers don’t know the companies contribute to Koch Industries. Yet Burner didn’t realize at that point that Buycott already was on its way to the app market.
While released in May, the app is still undergoing tweaks and campaign creation through its users.