The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Authority ruled in favour of farmers and against PepsiCo over a potato variety that the US-based firm claimed it had patented.
In 2019, PepsiCo had sued some farmers in Gujarat for cultivating the FC5 potato variety, which has a lower moisture content required to make snacks such as potato chips. PepsiCo maintained that it developed the FC5 variety of potato and registered the trait in 2016. The company had withdrawn the lawsuits the same year, saying it wanted to settle the issue amicably. The company lost rights to potato variety grown exclusively for Lays wafers.
Potato farmers from Gujarat called the order a victory for them. “This reaffirms our right to cultivate any crops,” said Bipin Patel, one of the Gujarat-based farmers sued by Pepsi in 2019.
However, Kavitha Kuruganti, a farmers’ rights activist, petitioned the PPVFR Authority for revocation of intellectual protection granted to the FC5 potato variety, saying that government’s rules do not allow a patent on seed varieties. The Authority agreed with Kuruganti’s contention. “The certificate of registration is hereby revoked with immediate effect,” stated KV Prabhu, Chairman of the Authority, in the order.
In response, a PepsiCo India spokesman stated: “We are aware of the order and are in the process of reviewing the same.” The company, which set up its first potato chips plant in India in 1989, supplies the FC5 seed variety to a group of farmers who in turn sell their produce to the company at a fixed price.