|FROM ||Ruben Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] Indian Potato Famine and "Intellectual Property"
| PepsiCo loses rights to special Lays variety potato in India
NEW DELHI, December 03, 2021 23:11 IST
Updated: December 04, 2021 09:10 IST
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Over 12,000 farmers grew the specific variety of potato under a contract
with PepsiCo. File | Photo Credit: AFP
The company’s registration of the variety has been revoked by the
Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights’ Authority.
Two years after PepsiCo India provoked outrage by suing nine Gujarati
farmers for allegedly infringing patent rights by growing its registered
potato variety, the company’s registration has been revoked by the
Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights’ Authority (PPV&FRA).
“This judgement is a historic victory for the farmers of India. It
should also prevent any other seed or food corporation from
transgressing legally granted farmers’ seed freedoms in India,” said
Kavitha Kuruganti, convenor of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic
Agriculture, who had filed the petition to revoke the food giant’s
PepsiCo said it was reviewing Friday’s order, but refused to offer
The PPV&FRA questioned the documentation produced by PepsiCo claiming it
was the owner of the variety, and thus could be considered the
Registered Breeder under the law. The Authority accepted Ms. Kuruganti’s
contention that “several farmers have been put to hardship including the
looming possibility of having to pay huge penalty on the purported
infringement they were supposed to have been committing... This violates
public interest,” added the order from PPV&FRA chairperson K.V. Prabhu
The FL-2027 variety of potatoes, used in Lays potato chips, came to the
limelight in April 2019, when it became the centrepiece for a David vs
Goliath fight in the potato belt of northern Gujarat. Introduced to
India in 2009, the potato was grown by about 12,000 farmers with whom
the company had an exclusive contract to sell seeds and buy back their
produce. In 2016, the company registered the variety under the PPV&FR
Alleging that farmers who were not part of its “collaborative farming
programme” were also growing and selling this variety in Gujarat,
PepsiCo filed rights infringement cases under the Act against nine
farmers in the state, including a ₹4.2 crore lawsuit against four small
In the midst of a crucial election season, widespread protests and
boycott threats by farmers groups and political parties across the
ideological spectrum forced the Gujarat government to step in, pushing
the company to withdraw all cases in May 2019. Ms. Kuruganti then filed
an application to revoke PepsiCo’s registration in June 2019.
“The Authority’s acceptance of the Revocation Application, including on
grounds of being against public interest, sends an important signal that
farmers’ rights cannot be taken lightly by IPR-holders in the country.
This should prevent further intimidation of farmers through vexatious IP
lawsuits,” said legal researcher and agriculture IPR expert Shalini
Bhutani, hailing the judgement as a precedent.
"We believe that the Authority and the Government have a responsibility
to let every applicant and registrant under the PPV&FR Act know that
their rights do not supersede farmers' rights,” added Kapil Shah of the
Kisan Beej Adhikar Manch, one of the Gujarat activists who spearheaded
the initial protests.
“The registrants’ rights are limited to only production of a variety,
and not production from a variety. Even when it comes to production of a
variety, farmers have rights to produce seed and even sell seed of a
protected variety provided it is unbranded,” he added.
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