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AGRICULTURE

PepsiCo to withdraw lawsuit against Guj potato farmers for infringement
Monday, 06 May, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
PepsiCo India has decided to withdraw a lawsuit it has filed against some farmers in Gujarat for the alleged infringement of its patent right of potato seeds. The company said that the decision was taken after a discussion with the state government.

The variety in question was FC5 potato, which the cola major had developed for its snacking products, Lays Potato Chips.

PepsiCo, in a statement, said that it was compelled to initiate the judicial process to protect its registered variety. It added that it wanted to amicably resolve this issue.

In an official statement, PepsiCo stated, “To safeguard the larger interest of  farmers, PepsiCo India was compelled to take judicial recourse to protect its registered variety.”

“The company, from the very start, had also offered an amicable settlement to farmers. After discussions with the government, it has agreed to withdraw the cases against the farmers,” it added.

“We are relying on the said discussions to find a long-term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection. The company remains deeply committed to the thousands of farmers we work with across the country and towards ensuring adoption of best farming practices,” the company said.

PepsiCo has filed a lawsuit in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, seeking a court order to restrain four farmers from growing the FC5 variety of potato. The company has also sought compensation of around Rs 1 crore from each of the four farmers.

This led to the intervention from the state government which assured the farmers all help.

However, it is pertinent to mention here that under the Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act, 2001), the farmers are allowed to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share, and sell their farm produce, including a seed protected under the Act. But they cannot sell a protected variety in a branded form.

Meanwhile, the PepsiCo spokesperson added that PepsiCo has been in India for the last 30 years. Over the years, the company has developed a best-in-class collaborative potato farming programme which has benefited thousands of farmers across the country.

The programme, which included several market awareness initiatives, has resulted in farmers getting access to higher yields, enhanced quality, training in best-in-class practices and better prices, all leading to improved livelihoods.

Background
PepsiCo started its operations in India in the year 1989, with its first potato chips plant in Channo, district Sangrur, Punjab. Later, two more plants were started one at Ranjangaon, Pune, and the other at Howrah in West Bengal.

“PepsiCo also introduced own researched processed grade varieties in India in late 1990s. At present, PepsiCo is the largest processed grade potato buyer in India. To fulfill its chip-grade potato demand locally, PepsiCo developed the largest collaborative farming for potato in India spread across many states working with thousands of farmers based on win-win principles,” read PepsiCo’s statement.

The company stated that it had plans to double the collaborative farming network in the next five years, including expansion to new geographies.
 
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