American snack food giant PepsiCo has announced its decision to withdraw its cases filed against the four potato farmers of Gujarat. The Company spokesperson, PepsiCo India said that “after discussions with the Government, the Company has agreed to withdraw cases against farmers” and they are relying on these discussions “to find a long term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection” faced by the company.
The Company PepsiCo had sought a penalty of Rs 1.05 crore from four Gujarat farmers after the company accused nine farmers of growing, and selling without approval, a particular variety of potato developed by PepsiCo and given to farmers under a contractual buy back agreement. The company had also asked these farmers to either stop growing the variety, or join its supplier group by entering into a contract with the company.
The decision of PepsiCo to withdraw from the case has come well before May 12, the deadline that was given to the farmers by the court to decide if they would fight the case or agree to the company’s settlement conditions.
The farmers rights activists grouped under the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) stated that they hoped “PepsiCo and others would have learnt a good lesson about farmers’ rights in India’s Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act 2001 from this episode and that such harassment of farmers will not get repeated again.”
“The Section 39(1) (iv) of the Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act 2001 is satisfactory and justifiable. ….. The section is applicable irrespective of the source of seed, type of seed, type of registrant, type of crop, and to who and how the harvest was sold. Nothing matters except whether the farmer has sold branded seeds or not, as far as farmers’ rights are concerned,” ASHA had stated.
“While we are not aware of the discussions that PepsiCo is referring to and not even with which government “it has agreed” with, we believe that this withdrawal is an acceptance of farmers rights, and this is apt. PepsiCo should have apologised for the intimidation and harassment of farmers in this case, and it should have been penalised for adopting these tactics against farmers. PepsiCo should also pay compensation to the sued farmers”, the activists said.