Saturday, 24 August, 2019

PepsiCo's action against Guj farmers 'brazenly wrong': Patel

PepsiCo says the farmers were PepsiCo says the farmers were"illegally growing its registered variety of potatoes
Patty Aguilar | 28 April, 2019, 17:00

A CNN report said that PepsiCo offered to stop pursuing four small farmers in India it accuses of illegally growing the variety of potatoes registered for exclusive use in its Lays chips.

American food and beverage company PepsiCo has offered to settle an ongoing row with farmers in the state of Gujarat after the company filed a lawsuit against them for growing a patented variety of potatoes without its consent. "In case they do not wish to join this programme, they can simply sign an agreement and grow other available varieties of potatoes".

Senior counsel Anand Yagnik, who appeared for the four farmers of Sabarkantha district, told the court that he will discuss the proposal with the farmers and inform the court about the outcome during the next hearing on June 12.

"The farmers were not aware of trademark issues and they had certain rights under Indian law with regards to seeds and planting material, " Shah said.

Bipin Patel, one of the farmer said, "We do not use these seeds knowing them to be FC5".

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"We will fight it out, no matter how big the company", Shah said. "If the company suspected the farmers of growing the FC-5 potatoes, the ideal route should have been to get them tested through a court-appointed commissioner, who would collect the samples in the presence of agriculture experts and then send them to the forensic science laboratory for testing", said Yagnik. The case by PepsiCo is an arrogant violation of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act 2001 which clearly mention the right of the farmers to "save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety" so long as he does not sell branded seed, as argued by AIKS.

Last week multi-billion dollar company PepsiCo had sued nine Gujarati farmers, fining them Rs 1.05 crore as damages. It has also appointed a court commissioner to visit the farmers' premises and create an inventory of stock of potatoes, the allegedly infringing product.

The activists have called the litigation against the farmers "intimidation" by the MNC.

The case had gathered steam recently when almost 200 farmers leaders, activists and civil society representatives had written to central and state government seeking intervention in support of farmers and protection of their rights. The company claimed Plant Variety Protection rights over the potato variety.

Two days ago, over 190 activists came out in support of these farmers and requested government to ask PepsiCo to withdraw its "false" cases against the Gujarat farmers.

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