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Pepsico India has a potato issues with farmers

Farmers from Gujarat were sued by the US Multinational Pepsico for ‘illegally’ growing potatoes of a certain variety that has been registered by Pepsico India. This potato variety is used in the manufacture of 'Lays' chips. Demanding damages worth Rs 1.05 crore from each farmer, the company claims that it had registered this variety with the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act 2001.

Pepsico, on the other hand, has mentioned in court that it is willing to settle out of court if the farmers sign an agreement to sell the entire produce to them and join their collective farming initiative.

Farmers’ groups across India see this as a precedent-setting threat, which will allow more companies to file litigations against farmers for growing other crops.

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20 May 2019

India: Pepsico to withdraw cases against farmers

Author: Priscilla Jebaraj, Hindu, India

 "Pepsico agrees to withdraw cases against Gujarat farmers", 02 May, 2019

In a victory for Gujaratpotato f armers dragged to court by PepsiCo for alleged rights infringement, the food and beverages giant says it has agreed to withdraw the cases.

“After discussions with the Government…We are relying on the said discussions to find a long term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection,” said a PepsiCo spokesperson.

This decision applies to the nine farmers PepsiCo has sued over the last two years for allegedly growing its registered potato variety which is used for Lays chips.

…The PepsiCo decision follows criticism from political parties and farmers rights groups, as well as boycott calls on global social media

Outrage continued to grow…with farmers groups across the political spectrum calling for boycotts and senior politicians from both the ruling BJP and opposition Congress slamming the company, in the midst of a Lok Sabha election putting the spotlight on farmers issues. …the Gujarat government announced that it would back the farmers and join the legal case on their behalf. 

…PepsiCo had decided to withdraw the cases “backed by an assurance from the government for a long term amicable settlement”, adding that both the Gujarat state government and the Centre were involved in such an assurance to the company.

Some farmers groups objected to the idea of any “long term solution” being negotiated by the government. “The only long-term solution needed is already given in Section 39 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001 which allows any farmer to grow or sell produce even of registered varieties so long as he does not sell branded seed.

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20 May 2019

India: It’s a hot potato for PepsiCo and farmers

Author: DownToEarth, India

"It’s a hot potato for PepsiCo and farmers", 29 April, 2019

 PepsiCo sued potato farmers in Gujarat for Rs 1.05 crore each over patent infringement. The corporate giant has claimed that the farmers are cultivating their proprietary FC5 potatoes without permission. 

This variety of potatoes is designed to be low in moisture and sugar content compared to other spuds, and is used for making the trademark product: Lay’s. It’s a huge amount for the accused farmers, who all have small farms in the state.

 …Farmer groups have approached the agriculture and farmer welfare ministry…to put out a public statement upholding farmers’ rights under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001, and to direct PepsiCo India Holdings to withdraw the cases. 

 The Farmers Rights Act 2001 allows farmers to save, use, sow, exchange or sell farm produce as long as they do not sell branded seed. All India Farmers’ Forum (AIFF) is also backing the farmers on the issue, and said that Indian agricultural laws protect the farmers’ rights to grow and sell registered crops.

 AIFF…have also called for a nationwide boycott of all Lay’s products.

…Facing boycott calls, PepsiCo has offered to settle the case on any of these terms: The farmers should stop growing the registered potato variety and surrender their existing stocks or enter PepsiCo’s collaborative farming programme where farmers buy seeds from the company and sell the produce back to it.  

The farmers’ counsel has asked for time to consider Pepsi’s offer, and the parties are expected to return to court on June 12. 


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