Seed rights: Ministry notice to PepsiCo

Following application to revoke registration of potato variety used for Lays chips

Food and beverage giant PepsiCo India has been slapped with a notice from a central agency under the Agriculture Ministry regarding an application to revoke the registration of its potato variety used to make its trademark Lays chips.

The application was filed by Kavitha Kuruganti, a convenor of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture. The notice, which The Hindu has viewed, was issued by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority on June 17. The company has been given three months to respond.

“We are studying the notice and will be responding to it appropriately,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told The Hindu.

According to sources the application to revoke PepsiCo’s registration argues that the firm violated Section 39 (1) (iv) clause of the PPV&FRA [the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, 2001] when it sued the Gujarat potato farmers.

The application reportedly evokes Section 34 (f) of the Act which allows the registration to be revoked on the grounds that “the breeder has not complied with the provisions of this Act or rules or regulations made thereunder”. The application also reportedly points out omissions from PepsiCo’s original application for registration, which would be grounds for revocation under Section 34 (c).

This move comes in the aftermath of PepsiCo’s legal action in April against at least nine potato farmers from Gujarat, who were sued for over ₹1 crore each for growing the potato variety registered by the company in 2016.

Following public outrage, boycott threats and intervention by the Gujarat government, the company withdrew its cases in May.

Farmers groups have also come together to prevent any future cases against farmers. On Saturday, major farmer unions, including those affiliated to the BJP, gathered to draft an action plan.

Bhartiya Kisan Union president Rakesh Tikait has threated that farmers would deliberately plant the registered variety to show that they had the right to do so.

The Bharatiya Kisan Sangh plans to hold a national “Quit India” protest on August 9 to protect the seed rights of Indian farmers, said its general secretary Badri Narayan Chaudhary.

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