the multinational withdraws all legal actions against Indian farmers

A few weeks ago we told you that PepsiCo was suing a handful of Indian farmers for unauthorized cultivation of the variety of potatoes with which they make their Lays. Well, at the beginning of the month, Pepsi backed down and withdrew all court measures. This is how the potato war has been resolved.

The potato war

The context. Pepsico has a specific variety designed to contain less water than normal varieties, improve the efficiency of its manufacturing processes and achieve the ideal organoleptic properties. This variety is known as ‘FC5’ and, to ensure supply, it has agreements with tuber farmers around the world.

In early April 2018, the company’s subsidiary in India sued four farmers because, according to their investigations, “they were illegally selling our registered variety.” PepsiCo asked for 10 million rupees per head (about 130,000 euros) in respect of intellectual property infringement.

The controversy. As soon as the lawsuit was known, dozens of farmers’ organizations and numerous local politicians began a series of protests accusing the multinational of using its power and resources to intimidate small producers who, in reality, were not breaking the law. All India Farmers’ Forum even called for a national boycott of the company’s products.

At first, PepsiCo offered to withdraw the lawsuit if the farmers signed an exclusive agreement with them (or if they stopped growing this variety of potatoes). However, on May 3, the company withdrew the lawsuit without very clear why.

Their only statements explain that “After several talks with the government, the company agreed to drop the lawsuits against the farmers. We are confident that we will be able to find an amicable and focused long-term solution to all problems related to seed protection ”.

Doubts on the table. As they say in Quartz (and as we defended a few weeks ago), it is most likely that this movement has given them a much more severe headache than what that potato production represented at first.

Anyway, and although the AIFF is selling this as a victory for the farmers, the truth is that this way of solving the case leaves many doubts about what the Indian farmers can or cannot do with the seeds. And this is crucial for the future of food because we are not talking about a small country with regulatory problems, we are talking about one of the largest producers of agricultural products in the world.