FMCG giant PepsiCo has sued farmers for growing the potato variety which the company uses to make its Lay’s chips. With this, PepsiCo has landed itself in massive backlash from Twitterati. In what is reminiscent of previous HUL controversy where people demanded a boycott of ‘videshi’ company, PepsiCo is also being called out for being a foreign company which is trying to take undue advantage of farmers. The hearing of the case is due tomorrow ie 26 April 2019 in Ahmedabad court.
PepsiCo had filed a lawsuit against four farmers in Gujarat early this month. Reason? It claimed infringement upon intellectual rights as these farmers had grown, sold and produced the Lay’s variety of potato. PepsiCo seeks Rs 1 crore each from these farmers in lieu of the alleged damage that the company has incurred. PepsiCo claims to have exclusive rights over the particular variety of potatoes.
“We took judicial recourse against people who were illegally dealing in our registered variety. This was done to protect our rights and safeguard the larger interest of farmers that are engaged with us and who are using and benefitting from seeds of our registered variety. We remain committed to resolving the matter and ensuring adoption of best farming practices resulting in higher yield and quality,” PepsiCo India spokesperson said.
Farmers have said that the case will set a precedent for other crop cases in India. Citing the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority Act, 2001, Kapil Shah, who heads Jatan — an organisation dedicated to organic farming — said that the act exempts farmers from PVP rights, PTI reported. Meanwhile, over 190 activists requested the Union government to intervene in the matter and direct the FMCG giant to withdraw its charges, PTI reported.
According to the 2001 Act, a farmer is allowed “to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act” so long as he does not sell ‘branded seed’. Meanwhile, PepsiCo cited Section 64 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001.
Here’s how Twitterati reacted to PepsiCo’s lawsuit against the farmers.
From PepsiCo’s point of view, farmer had taken undue advantage of the seeds from the earlier harvest. By growing using those seeds, farmer is now giving away the Lays potatoes, a breed developed by the company.
— gab.ai/murali (@muralipiyer) April 25, 2019
PepsiCo sued four Gujarati farmers, asking them to pay ₹1.05 crore each as damages for ‘infringing its rights’ by growing the potato variety used in its Lays chips.
Let us hope PepsiCo won’t sue people for using the same ground water used in pepsi https://t.co/wyCBZdTNg1
— Ravi Nair (@t_d_h_nair) April 25, 2019
Dear @PepsiIndia If you really have an issue with #farmers growing and reselling your air filled #potato #lays chip quality potatos grow yourself https://t.co/zBMvY8jjsx #suing them is just cheap. @BJP4India @INCIndia #SaveFarmer
— Jasneet Singh (@jskandhari) April 25, 2019
This will be mockery of farmers by corporate bullying. Central Govt needs to intervene. Everyone should boycott Lays and Pepsi. https://t.co/5pKMpi9Lnj
— Madakari (@manu844) April 25, 2019
Hey @PepsiCo where do you reckon this potato ever came from? You take away water meant for drinking n farming, your effluents poison d environment, you earn in millions n are suing poor farmers? Have you no shame? I am boycotting all your products, especially Lays! https://t.co/db4HUYJTpC
— Anusha Ravi (@anusharavi10) April 25, 2019