Food Sourcing? There’s an App for That

Staci Strauss

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Have you been reading about labeling lobbying? Are you disappointed in Washington’s inability to apply all this transparency talk to telling us what’s in our food? Wouldn’t it be great if Big Ag had to tell us what they’re selling us?

Well, no worries, we don’t have to wait for new little stickers to peel off our produce–there’s an app for that! I ran across this article on thinkprogress.org, and here’s what I gleaned:

Outside of Connecticut and Vermont, GMO labeling efforts have been trounced time and again in Congress, in state legislatures, and even on ballot initiatives. Though companies will not be legally required to disclose GMOs on a national scale anytime soon, the tech industry is rising to the challenge to help consumers find out for themselves. A slew of new mobile food trackers are proving that, as always, there’s an app for that.

One mobile app, Buycott, recently caused a stir among people looking to make more informed purchases. Buycott lets users scan a product before they purchase it to see its connections to companies with certain agendas. Users can sign on to campaigns to help them avoid the Koch Industries, Monsanto, companies that lobbied against GMO labeling, companies that contribute to the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and many more. There’s a wide range of right-wing causes, too–if they wish, users can support Koch Industries or companies that have pushed for looser gun laws. The app also lays out the network of corporations, exposing how seemingly unrelated companies are linked.

Buycott lets users scan a product before they purchase it to see its connections to companies with certain agendas.

On Tuesday, Food Safety News highlighted a number of other apps dedicated to tracing food back to its source. HarvestMark has the most extensive database thus far, tracking five billion fresh food items (vegetables, fruits, and meat) from major companies like The Kroger Company, Driscoll’s Berries, and Coleman Natural, as well as international companies shipping food from China, Mexico and Taiwan. The app lets shoppers scan a product or type in a label to pull up a full profile of the farm it came from, how it was grown, and whether or not the farm has had any foodborne illness issues. The app has already helped limit foodborne illness outbreaks–during one recall, 15 percent of consumers who used HarvestMark discovered their leafy greens had been flagged for health risks.

Food companies are also sensing marketing opportunities in the push for greater transparency. One organic meat company, Applegate, has started using scannable labels called QR codes that let consumers watch videos about the farmer that raised their meat. Top 10 Produce, a tracing company, is working with small independent farms to help them promote their products via mobile technology. In Seattle, a shellfish company is rolling out QR codes to let customers know where each oyster they buy came from.

I’ve downloaded HarvestMark and it’s super easy to use. When I’m not shopping with my local farmer friends directly, I plan on ‘HarvestMarking’ unfamiliar food–and Buycott is right up my alley–just as soon as I’m ready to learn yet another new tech method.

Click here to read the rest of the article over at Think Progress.

This article originally appeared on Think Progress. org.

Do you think these apps would be useful?

Photo Credit: Staci Strauss