Pepsi has sued the farmers for cultivating the FC5 potato variety, exclusively grown for its popular Lay’s potato chips. The FC5 variety has a lower moisture content required to make snacks such as potato chips.
PepsiCo is seeking more than Rs 1 crore ($142,840.82) each for alleged patent infringement.
The farmers grow potatoes in the western state of Gujarat, a leading producer of India’s most consumed vegetable.
“We have been growing potatoes for a long time and we didn’t face this problem ever, as we’ve mostly been using the seeds saved from one harvest to plant the next year’s crop,” said Bipin Patel, one of the four farmers sued by Pepsi.
Patel did not say how he came by the PepsiCo variety.
A court in Ahmedabad, the business hub of Gujarat, on Friday agreed to hear the case on June 12, said Anand Yagnik, the lawyer for the farmers.
“In this instance, we took judicial recourse against people who were illegally dealing in our registered variety,” a PepsiCo India spokesperson said.
“The company was compelled to take the judicial recourse as a last resort to safeguard the larger interest of thousands of farmers that are engaged with its collaborative potato farming program. PepsiCo India remains deeply committed to resolving the matter and ensuring adoption of best farming practices.,” the spokesperson added.
PepsiCo, which set up its first potato chips plant in India in 1989, supplies the FC5 potato variety to a group of farmers who in turn sell their produce to the company at a fixed price.
The company said it was ready to settle the issue amicably and said the four farmers could join the group of growers who exclusively grow the FC5 variety for its Lay’s potato chips.
“PepsiCo India has proposed to amicably settle with people who were unlawfully using seeds of its registered variety. PepsiCo has also proposed that they may become part of its collaborative potato farming programme. This programme gives them access to higher yields, enhanced quality, training in best-in-class practices and better prices.,” the spokesperson said.
“If the farmers do not wish to grow the FC5 potato variety for PepsiCo, they can simply sign an agreement with the company to cultivate other available varieties,” he added.
The All India Kisan Sabha, or All India Farmers’ Forum, has asked the Indian government to protect the farmers.
The forum has also called for a boycott of Lays chips and PepsiCo’s other products.
The concerned ministry did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
PepsiCo is the second largest US company to face patent infringement issues in India.
News credit : Indiatimes