Multinational food and beverages firm, PepsiCo India offered to settle lawsuits against farmers in Gujarat on Friday. PepsiCo, during a hearing in a Commercial Court in Gujarat said the farmers could either join the group of growers who exclusively grow the FC5 variety for its Lay's potato chips or cultivate other varieties of potatoes.
"PepsiCo India has proposed to amicably settle with the people who were unlawfully using the seeds of its registered variety. PepsiCo has also proposed that they may become part of its collaborative potato farming programme," the company spokesman said in a statement.
If the farmers do not wish to grow the FC5 potato variety for PepsiCo, they can simply sign an agreement with the company to cultivate other available varieties, he added.
Nine farmers from Sabarkantha and Aravalli districts have been sued by the firm for allegedly cultivating the FC5 potato variety, grown exclusively for its PepsiCo's Lays potato chips, for which it has claimed Plant Variety Protection (PVP) rights.
Senior counsel Anand Yagnik, who appeared for the four farmers of Sabarkantha district, told the court he would discuss the settlement proposal with the farmers and inform the court about the outcome in the next hearing.
M C Tyagi, Commercial Court judge has extended the previous order restricting the farmers from using the patented seeds till the next hearing on June 12.
The multinational giant is seeking damages of Rs 1 crore from each of the four farmers of Sabarkantha in its suit at the commercial court, and Rs 20 lakh from each of the farmers sued at a district court in Modasa town of Arvalli district.
Two days ago, over 190 activists came out in support of these farmers and requested government to ask PepsiCo to withdraw its 'false' cases against the Gujarat farmers.
In a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture, 194 signatories sought financial aid and protection of rights of farmers who have been sued for growing and selling the potato variety called FC-5 potato, for which PepsiCo India Holdings claimed to have obtained "exclusive rights in the country in 2016".
PepsiCo is the second large American company to face patent infringement issues in India.
(With agencies inputs)