PepsiCo Loses Right Over Potato Variety In India
India – Potato farmers are relieved as Indian government has revoked a patent that was issued on a particular variety of potatoes exclusively grown for PepsiCo Inc’s popular Lay’s potato chips, according to an order issued on Friday by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Authority.
Apparently, India does not have a rule to patent any seed variety. In 2019, PepsiCo Company sued farmers in Gujarat for having grown a variety of potatoes whose moisture was less than what was required. It was a specific FC5 variety that was being used as a main ingredient in potato chips.
This was put into focus by a farmers’ rights activist Kavitha Kuruganti who petitioned the revocation of intellectual protection granted to PepsiCo’s FC5 category of potatoes. 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
Later on, “The certificate of registration…is hereby revoked with immediate effect,” K. V. Prabhu, chairman of the PPVFR Authority said in the order. The company, which set up its first potato chips plant in India in 1989, supplies the FC5 seed variety to a group of farmers who in turn sell their produce to the company at a fixed price.
Lauding the PPVFR Authority’s ruling, potato farmers from Gujarat called it a victory for growers. “The order is a big victory for farmers of India, and reaffirms their right to cultivate any crops,” said Bipin Patel, who was one of the Gujarat-based farmers sued by Pepsi in 2019.
The company had sued nine farmers for growing the variety without their permission. PepsiCo India was the first corporate to introduce collaborative farming of process-grade potatoes in India in 2004-05. PepsiCo presently works with farmers, spread across West Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, UP, Karnataka, Bihar, Haryana and Chattisgarh.