PepsiCo India on Friday withdrew its lawsuits filed against potato farmers from Gujarat for allegedly growing a variety which the company claimed to have exclusive rights. However, farmers said that the final decision should be of the court which needs to enhance their efforts to protect their rights.
The food and beverage giant had got an early hearing in the case in an Ahmedabad court against four potato farmers and five farmers in a district court in North Gujarat. However, the company on Friday announced that it has withdrawn all its legal suits.
Farmers' rights groups welcomed the move saying that while the company was taught a lesson by alert citizens, the government must actively take measures to support the right of farmers.
PepsiCo had in April sued four farmers for cultivating a potato variety grown exclusively for its popular Lay's potato chips. The company's decision to sue farmers for allegedly growing a variety of the tuber for which it claims plant variety protection (PVP) rights, had led to a public outcry.
In a statement, PepsiCo India said it has agreed to withdraw cases against farmers after discussion with the government."We are relying on the said discussions to find a long term and an amicable resolution of all issues around seed protection," it said.
It filed cases against nine farmers from Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts in Gujarat for allegedly growing a variety of potatoes for which the company has claimed PVP rights and sought damages ranging from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 1 crore. "The company remains deeply committed to the thousands of farmers we work with across the country and towards ensuring adoption of best farming practices" the statement said.
Altogether 11 farmers of Gujarat have been sued by the company till now. Two other farmers of Banaskantha district were sued earlier by the company on similar grounds.
(With PTI inputs)