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Pepsico India's ownership of Potato variety FL-2027 again challenged in farmer protests

Harvesting potatoes destined for the production of chips by Pepsico India (West-Bengal)

Farmers' rights activists on Tuesday planted FL-2027 seed potatoes on a plot of farmland in Ahmedabad, Gujarat to protest food and beverages major PepsiCo's reassertion of rights over the variety.

Farmers in Gujarat have been claiming that under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights (PPVFR) Act, 2001, they can sow the seed without the company's permission.

PepsiCo registered FL-2027 variety in 2016 and introduced it in Gujarat for cultivation. The company uses it for production of potato chips.

On September 23 this year, PepsiCo had asserted in a letter to Authority under the PPVFR Act that as the "holder of certificate of registration for FL-2027", it has the "rights under the Act to pursue necessary actions against individuals and companies alike who infringes its rights".

Kapil Shah of the Beej Adhikar Manch said various organisations fighting for farmers' rights have asked farmers to sow the seeds without any fear.

He called Tuesday's symbolic sowing a "satyagraha".

Definitions of satyagraha


a policy of passive political resistance, especially that advocated by Mahatma Gandhi against British rule in India.

“The main forms of mass struggle in the Valley have been non-violent direct actions - marches, satyagraha and civil disobedience.”
Vitthalbhai Patel of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh:

“Farmers have nothing to fear when they make their choice of what seed to sow and they can even sell the seed produced from any variety as long as it is not branded seed.”
PepsiCo had earlier sued some potato farmers in Gujarat for allegedly sowing this variety, demanding damages ranging from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 1 crore over alleged infringement of rights.

But in May, it withdrew the cases.

Farmers' rights activists then wrote to the PPF&FR Authority, demanding revocation of the company's certificate of registration for FL-2027.

The company's spokesperson was not available for comments on Tuesday's event.

Around 20 per cent of potatoes grown in Gujarat are of FL-2027 variety. Farmers prefer it as gives higher returns, activists said.

In Gujarat, potato crop is sown mainly in November and December.