New Delhi, May 2: Pepsico Inc on Thursday agreed to withdraw after discussions with the government, their lawsuit against a few Gujarat farmers for cultivating a variety of potato (FC-5) that is grown exclusively for its branded potato chips marketed in India. The company had charged the farmers with infringement of its patent.
Reacting swiftly to the MNC’s move, farmers rights activists termed it as a “major victory for the farmers of India’’ and sought apology from the MNC as well as compensation to farmers who had been harassed and dragged to court “when Indian law is clear’’.
“After discussions with the government, the company has agreed to withdraw the cases against the farmers," said the Company.
“We are relying on the said discussions (with government) to find long-term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection,’’ it said adding that it was “committed to the farmers it works with and towards ensuring adoption of best practices’’.
Asserting that the farmers’ seeds freedom had remained unaffected in the case due to farmers’ organizations and citizen’s pressure, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) an NGO said, “We hope Pepsico and others would have learnt a lesson about farmers’ rights in India’s Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act 2001 from this episode.’’
They hoped such harassment shall not be repeated.
The NGO had opposed the out-of-court settlement proposed by Pepsico after the matter was raised by civil society groups and in the media.
In a letter to authorities on April 24, nearly 200 farmers groups and representatives highlighted the problem.
They said the small farmers had grown a potato crop from farm-saved seed they had accessed locally. The MNC was suing them with its own interpretation of Section 64 of the PPV and FR Act and later tried to settle the matter out of court till government intervened.
Quoting from the Act, ASHA representatives said, that Chapter VI stated “Farmers’ Rights: Sec. 39 (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act (iv) 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 protected under this Act.’’ (UNI)