August 8, 2020
PEPSI CO TRIES TO PATENT NATURAL POTATOES – PROCEEDS TO SUE FARMERS
PepsiCo in India has offered to stop pursuing four small farmers whom it accuses of growing a variety of potatoes registered for exclusive use in one of its product lines.
PepsiCo, which owns brands like Pepsi, Lays, Gatorade & Quaker Oats, not only attempted to prevent independent farmers from growing potatoes but also sought damages of up to 10 million rupees.
The company’s Indian subsidiary filed lawsuits against the farmers but are open to dropping the charges if the farmers join their ‘authorised cultivation programme’. PepsiCo claims to be protecting farmers engaged with its collaborative potato farming program – rather than their otherwise vast profit margins.
Farmer unions have though been fighting back against PepsiCo’s war on food sovereignty. In a letter to the Indian government and shared with CNN Business, they said “the farmers’ rights to grow and sell registered crops are protected under India’s agricultural laws.”
In Section 39 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001 which allows any farmer to grow or sell produce even of registered varieties so long as he does not sell branded seed.
In the letter, the farmer unions added that (they) “believe that the intimidation and legal harassment of farmers is happening because farmers are not fully aware of [their] rights.”
Finally the Gujarat government announced that it would infact back the farmers resulting in PepsiCo withdrawing their case.
A farmer leader, Kapil Shah welcomed the case withdrawal but maintained “This variety of potato has already been grown by farmers. PepsiCo’s registration is wrong and unethical,”