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Activists Hail Victory After Pepsi Says It Will Withdraw Lawsuits Against Four Potato Farmers From Gujarat

PepsiCo in April sued four Indian farmers for cultivating a potato variety -- FC5 -- grown exclusively for its popular Lay's potato chips.

Vijaysinh Parmar | News18.com

Updated:May 6, 2019, 10:02 PM IST
Activists Hail Victory After Pepsi Says It Will Withdraw Lawsuits Against Four Potato Farmers From Gujarat
File photo of Pepsi Logo (Reuters)

Ahmedabad: PepsiCo India on Thursday announced that it will withdraw lawsuits against four Gujarat farmers accused of patent infringement.

"After discussions with the government, the company has agreed to withdraw the cases against the farmers," said a company spokesperson.

Farmer leaders and activists, who had earlier launched a protest against the lawsuits, hailed the company’s decision to withdraw the legal action as a victory for the farmers.

“PepsiCo India announced in a statement this evening that it has agreed to withdraw its cases against the potato farmers of Gujarat. This is a major victory for all farmers of India, provided it is unconditional. Farmers’ seed freedoms have remained unaffected in this case due to farmer organisations and citizen pressure. We hope that PepsiCo and others would have learnt a good lesson about farmers’ rights in India’s Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Act, 2001, from this episode and hope that such harassment of farmers will not be repeated,” a farmers’ rights body said in a statement.

Over the past year, the US food and beverages giant had sued a total of nine farmers for rights infringement. Last week, it had offered an out-of-court settlement expressing its willingness to withdraw the cases if certain terms are agreed upon.

The farmers’ body added that exemplary damages ought to be recovered from PepsiCo for harassing farmers. The company should have apologised for the intimidation and harassment of farmers in this case and should have been penalised for adopting these tactics. PepsiCo should also pay compensation to the sued farmers,” said activists.

Earlier, the company had sued the farmers for illegally growing and selling a breed of potato (FL 2027) as it is exclusively registered with the company under the PPV&FR Act, 2001.

Last week, PepsiCo told a court in Ahmedabad that it wants to settle the dispute with the farmers. According to the terms suggested by the plaintiff, the farmers can assure the company they will not use the registered variety of potato or enter into an agreement by which they can only purchase seeds from the company and sell them their produce.

PepsiCo has claimed it has sole rights to grow the particular variety of tubers for the manufacture of its Lay's brand of chips. PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd had told the court last week that it uses a registered variety of potatoes called FL 2027, which is a hybrid of FL 1867 and Wischip varieties, to manufacture chips for its brand-Lay’s.

After PepsiCo sued farmers, over 190 farmers, scientists, activists and unions from across the country had signed a protest letter in support of the sued individuals.

The Bhartiya Kisan Sangh had also joined the protests and declared its support to the sued farmers.

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