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Now, PepsiCo offers to settle case against Gujarat potato farmers

Farmers harvest potatoes at a field.

Farmers harvest potatoes at a field.   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

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If the farmers stop growing the registered potato variety used in its Lays chips.

In the wake of criticism over its ₹4.2 crore lawsuit against four Gujarati potato farmers, food and beverages giant PepsiCo has offered to settle the case if the farmers stop growing the registered potato variety used in its Lays chips.

In an Ahmedabad civil court on Friday, PepsiCo’s lawyer offered a settlement on these terms: the farmers must give an undertaking that they will not use its registered variety and destroy their existing stocks, or must enter PepsiCo's collaborative farming programme where farmers buy seeds from the company and sell the produce back to the company.

The lawyer for the farmers said they would need time to consider the offer, and to reply to the court. 

The next hearing is on June 12.

 

PepsiCo has invoked Section 64 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001 to claim infringement of its rights. 

However, farmers groups cite Section 39 of the same Act, which specifically says that a farmer is allowed “to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act” so long as he does not sell “branded seed”.

Case seen as a precedent

For farmers groups as well as the corporate farming industry, the case is being seen as a precedent that could have a far-reaching impact on how other food crops are developed, sown and sold in the country.

“In this instance, we took judicial recourse against people who were illegally dealing in our registered variety,” said a PepsiCo India spokesperson. “This was done to protect our rights and safeguard the larger interest of farmers who are engaged with us and who are using and benefiting from seeds of our registered variety.”

Badribhai Joshi of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj said, “These are among the first cases of alleged IPR [Intellectual property rights] infringement against farmers in India in a post-WTO world. Wrongly decided, these could set a wrong precedent impacting farmers’ livelihoods quite adversely.” 

General secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha Hannan Mollah said, “This is a test case of the corporate exploitation of farmers under the WTO regime.” The organisation has called for a boycott of Lays chips and all other PepsiCo potato products.

Farmers groups have asked the Central government to make a submission in court on their behalf and fund their legal costs through the National Gene Fund.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 7:10:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pepsico-offers-conditional-settlement-to-gujarat-potato-farmers/article26953341.ece

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