Gujarat demanded PepsiCo withdraw legal suits farmers

24th April 2019: Leading farmer unions, farmers’ rights advocacy groups and
eminent citizens of Gujarat demanded that PepsiCo immediately withdraw all the legal suits it has slapped on many potato farmers in different districts of Gujarat. The Indian subsidiary of the US MNC,
namely PepsiCo India Holdings (PIH) Pvt Ltd has filed cases of IPR infringement through 2018-2019 against farmers whom it claims are using its potato variety FL 2027/FC5 without permission.
Addressing a press conference in Ahmedabad today, they demanded that the Government of India and the State Government of Gujarat step in immediately to protect farmers’ rights as already
enshrined in relevant laws of the country, particularly the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001.
“The claims of PepsiCo India that it holds exclusive rights on a potato variety called FL-2027 by virtue
of its plant variety certificate (PVC) under the PPV&FR Act 2001 is completely untenable. The company
is clearly intimidating farmers to wipe out any competition in its potato and chips market. We strongly  condemn the objectionable ways in which the MNC used private detective agencies to entrap farmers, to create secret video footage and take unauthorised samples from the farmers, to slap these legal suits against farmers. We demand that the company immediately and unconditionally withdraw all the cases that it initiated in various courts against farmers”, said Ambubhai Patel, National Vice President, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS).
Badribhai Joshi of Gujarat Khedut Samaj said, “From information gathered so far, at least nine cases
have been filed by PepsiCo India against potato farmers of Banaskantha, Sabarkantha and Arvalli
districts, and some of these cases date back to 2018; news of ex-parte ad-interim injunction orders being passed by a commercial court against the farmers has emerged only recently. These are
amongst the first cases of alleged IPR infringement against farmers in India in a post-WTO world.
Wrongly decided, these could set a wrong precedent impacting farmers livelihoods quite adversely”.
Kapilbhai Shah of Jatan, Vadodara added, “India had designed a sui generis law in compliance with the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement (Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), which is the PPV&FR Act, 2001. Under this statute, farmers’ apriori rights with regard to seeds and planting material have been clearly protected under Section 39. Therefore, we want the Government of India and Government of Gujarat to step in and ensure that farmers’ rights are upheld in these cases and elsewhere. Eminent citizens and hundreds of organisations across India have already begun writing to
the concerned authorities and we demand immediate intervention from these authorities/ departments.”
PepsiCo India claims that the registration of a potato variety denominated as FL-2027, also known by the trade name of FC-5 in India’s Plant Varieties Registry in February 2016, entitles it to an exclusive
right over the registered variety, and is making a case that the sued Gujarat farmers have not been authorised by it to grow the said variety. However, Section 39(1) (iv) of the PPV&FR Act 2001 in
Chapter VI on Farmers’ Rights, clearly asserts that “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.”
“Even as we demand that Pepsico withdraw its false cases, and that the government intervene to
protect farmers’ rights, we also seekc that any judicial interpretation should not water down the
legislative intent of the PPV&FR Act in any manner”, said Sagar Rabari, President of Khedut Ekta
Dr Rajendrabhai Khimani, President of Gujarat Association of Agricultural Sciences said, “It is
important that the law be amended to protect farmers’ rights in a stronger fashion by clearly adding a
provision that bars any company from getting registrations under the PPV&FR Act if found harassing
farmers in this manner. As a penalty on PepsiCo India for vexatious suits like this against farmers,
registration of all varieties of PIH should stand cancelled. Government must also issue minimum half
page educational advertisements in all regional language papers highlighting the key features of the
Act and that it will uphold farmers’ rights. That will then prevent any other corporations claiming Plant
Breeders Rights from taking such action against hapless farmers”.
“It is a clear case of harassment and intimidation of farmers, in violation of farmers’ rights under
section 39 of the PPV&FR Act. Need to underline who is really infringing upon whose right”, said Vinay
Mahajan of Loknaad.
Meanwhile, hundreds of eminent citizens, activists, farmer unions and other organisations have sent a
letter to the Chairperson and Registrar General of India’s Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’
Rights Authority under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, with copies to the Union
Agriculture Minister Shri Radhamohan Singh, Union Minister of State for Agriculture Shri Purushotham
Rupala, Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Vijay Rupani and Agriculture Minister of Gujarat Shri RC Faldu,
demanding immediate intervention from their side, with the following demands:
1. Put out a public statement, which should also be made a submission to the Commercial Court and
High Court in Ahmedabad where the farmers are being sued, explaining the farmers’ rights as
enshrined in the PPV&FR Act, 2001;
2. Write to PepsiCo India Holdings, asking it to withdraw its false and untenable cases against the
3. Provide from the National Gene Fund the costs of legal suits that the farmers are having to face,
until the time that the cases are withdrawn by PepsiCo India;
4. Mention on all Certificates of Registration, in the same manner as Section 47 (on compulsory
licensing) is mentioned, Section 39 and other relevant sections too.
5. Issue a notification that no company can trespass into a farmer’s field without due intimation of
the local district agriculture office and the farmer’s prior informed consent.
(Ambubhai Patel) (Badribhai Joshi) (Kapil Shah)
Bharatiya Kisan Sangh Gujarat Khedut Samaj Jatan
(Sagar Rabari) (Vinay Mahajan) (Dr. Rajendra Khimani)
Khedut Ekta Manch Loknaad Guj. Association of Agri. Science