The legal tussle between PepsiCo India Holdings and nine potato growers in Gujarat came to an end on Friday with the multinational company withdrawing its legal suits against the farmers.
PepsiCo India had sought and obtained an early hearing to withdraw its suits - four in a commercial court in Ahmedabad and five in a district court of Modasa. The company had sued nine farmers in Gujarat for allegedly buying seeds and selling potato of the FL 2027 variety, registered by PepsiCo for making 'Lays' chips.
The withdrawal of cases comes after the company held discussions with the government, which assured a long-term and amicable resolution of issues involving protection of seeds.
"PepsiCo from the very start had offered an amicable settlement to farmers. After discussions with the government, the company has agreed to withdraw cases against farmers. We are relying on the said discussions to find a long term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection. The company remains deeply committed to the thousands of farmers we work with across the country and towards ensuring adoption of best farming practices," a PepsiCo India spokesperson said on Friday.
As part of the legal suit, PepsiCo had claimed exclusive rights over the said variety under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001, seeking damages worth Rs 1 crore from at least four farmers. The cases attracted global attention, with several farmer groups, organisations and activists rallying behind the farmers.
Farmers activists, however, said their agitation for asserting farmers' rights over seeds would not end with the withdrawal of cases.
Around 30 such farmer groups, organisations and activists have come together to form a forum called Beej Adhikar Manch (Seeds' Rights Forum) to continue the agitation.
On Friday, Kapil Shah, coordinator of the forum reiterated that Section 39 (1) (iv) of the PPV&FR Act 2001 upheld the rights of farmers of India for seeds over companies.
The forum also reiterated its objections to discussions held between PepsiCo and government as unacceptable to farmers.
"Any reference to some discussions that PepsiCo India was having with government was not acceptable to us. The Gujarat government can neither persuade nor dictate to farmers of this state that they need to take permission from some company that is claiming exclusive rights, which, then, means that the government itself will be misleading the farmers on the law of the land," said Rajendra Khimani, president of Gujarat Association of Agricultural Sciences, on behalf of Beej Adhikar Manch.