Terming as "brazenly wrong" PepsiCo's legal action against Gujarat farmers for growing a variety of potatoes "registered" by the company, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel Saturday said corporate interests cannot dictate what farmers must or must not cultivate.
He also said that the state government should not keep its eyes "shut" to the development.
Nine farmers from Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts of Gujarat were sued by food and beverages giant PepsiCo for allegedly growing a variety of potatoes for which it has claimed Plant Variety Protection (PVP) rights.
"Pepsi's decision to take Gujarat's potato grower farmers to court is ill-advised & brazenly wrong. It is in violation of the farmers right under PPVFR Act. The state govt shouldn't keep its eyes shut. Corporate interest cannot dictate what our farmers must or mustn't cultivate," Patel said on Twitter.
The Congress leader was referring to the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001.
PepsiCo has said that it obtained Plant Variety Protection (PVP) rights over the potato variety under thePPVFR Act, 2001 and that the farmers were growing the potato in violation of its rights over the seed variety.
While four farmers have been sued with damage claim of Rs 1 crore each, five others have been sued with damage claim of Rs 20 lakh.
During a hearing of the case at a commercial court on Friday, PepsiCo had offered to settle the lawsuits against four potato farmers of Gujarat provided they gave an undertaking that they will not use the patented variety of potato seeds in the future.
Activists in Gujarat have objected to PepsiCo's action and even threatened the company of consequences if it did not withdraw the case, arguing that farmers are protected to use PVP protected seed varieties under the PPVFR Act.
Over 190 activists Wednesday requested the Union government to ask PepsiCo India to withdraw its "false" cases against Gujarat farmers for allegedly illegally growing a variety of potatoes "registered" by the company.
In a statement, PepsiCo said on Friday that it was "compelled" to take the legal path to safeguard the interests of farmers associated with its "collaborative potato farming programme".