A new app is designed to help consumers boycott products from Monsanto and the Koch Brothers by simply scanning a barcode. The “Buycott” app lets users know if the product they are buying at a supermarket belongs to one of those companies or their subsidiaries.
Forbes notes that some shoppers may not know the complex web of companies that make the various products that go into their shopping cart. Koch Industries, Inc., for example, owns Brawny, Vanity Fair, Quilted Northern, Angel Soft and Mardi Gras paper products, as well as the Dixie line of paper plates, cups and other products. Charles and David Koch also own various subsidiaries that make clothes or chemicals for consumer use.
Anger at the Koch Brothers was what fueled Darcy Burner, a former Microsoft programmer, to discuss the idea of such an app during her keynote speech at 2012’s Netroots Nation while other developers were also working on a similar project, notes Forbes.
Buycott was being developed at the same time as Burner’s speech by Ivan Pardo, a 26-year-old freelance programmer, and the app was finished earlier this year and made available in May.
According to Buycott’s description, “When you use Buycott to scan a product, it will look up the product, determine what brand it belongs to, and figure out what company owns that brand (and who owns that company, ad infinitum). It will then cross-check the product owners against the companies and brands included in the campaigns you've joined, in order to tell you if the scanned product conflicts with one of your campaign commitments.”
Buycott is available for Apple and Android devices, and the app uses the phone’s or tablet’s camera to scan the barcode. Buycott also lets users set up their own campaigns, such as labeling any product that uses a Genetically Modified Organism, or GMO, to boycott companies whose products may be tested on animals. Individuals can also join other user-created Buycott campaigns and the app will track products against the various campaigns the user has joined. The Buycott app also provides contact information for the companies for users to easily communicate with the large conglomerates.
The Buycott app will not only help inform consumers, but it can also be used to encourage shoppers. Forbes notes Buycott campaigns can be created that support companies that have donated to gay rights or are eco-friendly. Pardo says to Forbes, “For me, it was critical to allow users to create campaigns because I don’t think its 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.” Buycott will also ask for user submissions to improve their database of companies and the products they own.