In a symbolic protest against PepsiCo, which had filed a case against Gujarat farmers for “illegally” using sowing the potato variety FL-2027 the company claims to have developed and hence has intellectual property right (IPR) over it, the affected farmers and their leaders took up the variety’s symbolic sowing at a press conference in Ahmedabad.
The farmers claimed, the protest action was an assertion of their right over their right over seed varieties and freedom to produce it, as provided to them under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001 (PPV&FR Act).
Earlier this year, PepsiCo India sued several Gujarat potato farmers citing IPR infringement. Following massive resistance by farmer rights activists across Gujarat, the company was forced to withdraw the cases it had filed.
“PepsiCo’s legal suits against Gujarat’s potato farmers in 2018 and 2019 were first such cases that challenged the seed freedoms and customary rights of farmers, enshrined in the PPV&FR Act, 2001”, said Kapil Shah, a farmers’ rights activist of the Beej Adhikar Manch.
“By emphasising that exclusive right has been conferred on the company by virtue of its variety getting registered in the Plant Varieties Registry of the Government of India, the company chose to trample upon farmers’ rights”, Shah asserted.
Pointing out that, despite withdrawal of the cases, PepsiCo continues justify its “objectionable actions against farmers”, and is trying to “instil a sense of fear and anxiety among farmers”, Shah said, “The farmers’ decision to symbolically sowing FL-2027/FC-5 variety is to let farmers know their rights, to re-assert the same, and to let the company know that farmers cannot be intimidated.”
The symbolic protest comes close on the heels of PepsiCo revived its intention to take action against Gujarat farmers using sowing FL-2027 potato variety
The symbolic protest comes after PepsiCo India, in a submission to the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority in September 2019, said in its defense that the PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd (PIH) is “the holder of certificate of registration for FL-2027” and therefore has “rights under the Act to pursue necessary actions against individuals and companies alike who infringe its rights granted under the Act”.
Talking with mediapersons, Vitthalbhai Patel of the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) said, this shows “PIH continues to contend that farmers’ rights as contained in Section 39 (1)(iv) are not over-arching.”
Farmers’ leaders from the non-political Gujarat Khedut Samaj (GKS) said, the PepsiCo move would be met with stiff resistance across Gujarat, and a private company cannot be allowed to infringe upon farmers’ rights in an agrarian country like India.
Dr AR Pathak, a senior plant breeder and former vice chancellor of two agricultural universities of Gujarat, who is with the Gujarat Association of Agricultural Sciences (GASS), said, “Section 28 of PPV&FR Act, under which the PepsiCo had filed its case, did not apply to farming activity, but on the sale of seeds”.