Food and beverages giant PepsiCo India said on Thursday that it will withdraw the cases it has filed against potato farmers in Gujarat for allegedly growing a variety of the tuber for which the company claims Plant Variety Protection (PVP) rights.
PepsiCo in April sued a few farmers for cultivating a potato variety grown exclusively for its popular Lay’s potato chips, leading to an outcry and protests.
In a statement, PepsiCo India said it has agreed to withdraw cases after discussions with the government.
“We are relying on the said discussions to find a long-term and amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection,” it said.
The multi-national had sued a total of 11 farmers in Gujarat for growing a variety of potatoes, claiming infringement of intellectual property rights under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act, 2001.
Bharatiya Kisan Sangh’s Gujarat unit president Vitthal Dudhatra termed the PepsiCo’s decision as a victory of farmers.
“We welcome this decision. This is indeed a victory for farmers. The company bowed down because of pressure from various quarters,” said Dudhatra.
Senior advocate Anand Yagnik who is representing the farmers in the litigation said PepsiCo’s announcement had not been conveyed to the courts yet.
Haribhai Patel, one of the four farmers from Sabarkantha district facing a suit, said he was happy. “I am happy to hear that the company has decided to withdraw the case. But it should be ensured that farmers do not face such false cases in future,” he said.
PepsiCo has sued nine farmers from Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts in Ahmedabad commercial court and Modasa district court for allegedly growing a variety called FC-5 potato for which the company has claimed PVP rights.
It has sought damages of up to Rs 1 crore.
Earlier it had sued two other farmers from Banaskantha and the case is pending before the Gujarat High Court.
In its statement, PepsiCo India said its collaboration with farmers has benefited many farmers across the country.
“To safeguard the larger interest of farmers, PepsiCo India was compelled to take judicial recourse to protect its registered variety. PepsiCo from the very start had also offered an amicable settlement to farmers,” it said.
After facing criticism from farm activists, the company last week had offered to settle the dispute, saying it will not pursue the matter if the farmers gave an undertaking to purchase this specific variety of seeds from the company and sell the potatoes to it.
Before that, over 190 activists had demanded that Union government ask PepsiCo India to withdraw the cases.