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After Suing Farmers For Growing Lays Variety Potato, PepsiCo Now Offers Conditional Settlement

PepsiCo Potato Farmers Settlement

After suing Gujarat farmers for Rs 1.05 crore for growing Lays chips variety potatoes, PepsiCo company has now offered a conditional settlement. In this conditional settlement, the multi-billion dollar company has offered to settle the case if farmers stop growing the particular variety. Earlier PepsiCo India spokesperson had defended it step to sue farmers and said, “This was done to protect our rights and safeguard the larger interest of farmers that are engaged with us and who are using and benefitting from seeds of our registered variety”.

Conditional settlement

On April 26, in the Ahmedabad civil court, the lawyer representing PepsiCo offered a settlement. Under this conditional settlement, the farmers are asked to give an undertaking that they would cease to use their registered variety. They have also been asked to surrender their existing stocks. If that is not possible, they must enter PepsiCo’s collaborative farming programme under which farmers would buy seeds from the company and sell it back the produce.

Replying to the offer made, the lawyer representing the farmers said that they would require time to consider the offer and reply to the court. The next hearing on the case is scheduled on June 12, as reported by The Hindu.

What happened?

Last week multi-billion dollar company PepsiCo had sued nine Gujarati farmers, fining them Rs 1.05 crore as damages. The fine was levied for growing a potato variety used to make Lays chips owned by the company. PepsiCo earlier defended the step taken by the company on the ground that it is done to protect the interest of the company and of the farmers working with them.

Reportedly, PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd has told the court that FL 2027 is a variety of potato, which is the hybrid of FL 1867 and the Wischip varieties. PepsiCo uses it for production of the Lays chips.

This variety has been commercially used in India since 2009 under the trademark FC5. A few farmers in Punjab were granted the license to grow the variety on the buyback system. In the court, PepsiCo said that it was tipped off about few farmers in Gujarat growing this variety in January. The results from the in-house laboratory, Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) and Central Potato Research Institute in Shimla, confirmed the suspicion, the company said. After this, the company filed cases of IPR infringements.

Activists and unions support to farmers

Activists have pledged the support to the farmers. In a press release, the Farmer Unions and Civil Society Representatives have quoted Section 39(1) (iv) of the PPV&FR Act 2001 on Chapter VI on Farmer Rights’. This section says that “a farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into the force of this Act, provided that the farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety produced under this Act.”

The collective has also condemned the method adopted to ascertain whether or not the farmers are using the said variety. They have alleged that private detective agencies were used to “entrap farmers, to create secret video footage and take unauthorised samples from the farmers”. Badribhai Joshi of the Gujarat Khedut Samaj also said that this could set a wrong precedent and impact farmers’ livelihood adversely.

Also Read: PepsiCo Sues Farmers For Growing Lays Variety Potatoes, Demands Rs 1.05 Crore Each

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