Gujarat Global News Network, Gandhinagar
In a turnaround now the farmers in the state have demanded compensation from PepsiCo which decided to sue them for growing a variety of potato registered by it. The issue has raised a storm and after the government stepped in, the MNC giant said that it would withdraw cases against the farmers.
In a statement by 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.
PepsiCo had sought a penalty of Rs 1.05 crore from four Gujarat farmers after the company accused these 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.
Agitated by PepsiCo’s earlier decision to sue potato-growing farmers for allegedly growing a variety of potato registered by it, around 25 major farmers’ bodies of Gujarat and the country, including Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), as well as activists and NGOs have decided to form a central body – Seed Sovereignty Forum – to protect farmers’ rights on seeds.
They have said the company must withdraw the cases unconditionally and also pay compensation to the cultivators for “harassment”. A meeting to chalk out an action plan was held on Friday at the Gujarat Vidyapith here.
“We are apprehensive because PepsiCo’s statement yesterday does not offer anything new. The company had earlier told the court that it will withdraw cases on two conditions – either farmers give up using company’s seeds or farmers become part of contract farming with the company,” they said.
“We demand that the withdrawal of cases must be unconditional. We also want the company to pay compensation to these farmers for causing harassment. The law is crystal clear and it says that farmers’ or cultivators’ rights will always supersede the rights of seed breeders. Farmers’ right over seed is non-negotiable,” he said.
Nine farmers from Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts were sued by PepsiCo in two separate courts for allegedly growing a variety of potatoes for which the company has claimed plant variety protection (PVP) rights, and sought damages ranging from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 1 crore from each of them.
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