There exist several excellent resources on the internet that watch gobal multi-nationals and try to lobby against their extreme power and dominance in the global marketplace. One of these, “BadCorp.org“, has an excellent comprehensive list of products to avoid, which you can print out and take shopping with you.
The only problem is that such a list would be hard to use. What is needed is a small scanner device that contains a database of products and their associated bar codes. Then as you walk around the supermarket you can scan each product and it will tell you whether or not the product is on the list or not. A simple traffic light system would be fine. The scanner would need a USB connection so that it could be connected to your PC, and updates to the database could be added via that interface.
Many consumers are aware that some products and companies should be avoided. Many have heard of the StopEsso and Nestle baby milk campaigns. However, consumers need ease of use, as many of us are extremely lazy. Such a system, if cheap enough to allow people access to it, would be a direct action method of forcing manufacturers via the supermarkets that we are tired of their lack of responsibility. Supermarkets could be lobbied to provide such a device within the supermarkets themselves as part of their “fair-trading” and “green effort” policies. Note that it is only Co-op and Waitrose that seem to have an obvious section about this. The other supermarkets do not, or if they do, it is not easy to find.
I am guessing that there maybe volunteers that might wish to take up this project. Bar code scanner hardware is now widely available. Maybe extensions to the Palm, IPaq, IPod, mobile phone, etc, can be developed so that the hardware cost can be kept to a minimum. RFID is just on the horizon in many of our supermarkets, and why shouldn’t the consumer have some benefits from that technology as well!
If there are people out there who fancy getting involved in such a project then please email me using the feedback form on this website.
A similar idea which delivers nutrional information is being developed in partnership by the Technical Research Centre of Finland and National Technology Agency of Finland. More information can be found here. They are using a software extension built on top of the mobile phone camera. Quite a clever idea. OCR specialists sign up now!
Perhaps a combination of Greenpeace’s GM watch database and the BadCorp database could be combined.
Thoughts and extensions to this idea are welcomed.