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Experts, seed industry differ over PepsiCo lawsuit against Indian potato farmers

According to a report by Business Line in India, the filing of infringement suits by PepsiCo India Holdings Private Ltd against a group of farmers in Gujarat has attracted mixed reactions, with a legal expert calling for the Ministry of Agriculture and farmers’ Welfare to intervene in the matter.

The Indian arm of the US-headquartered multinational food giant filed suits against the farmers last week alleging that they had infringed its intellectual property rights (IPR) over a potato variety named FL 2027, also called FC5, by allegedly producing it without the company’s approval.

Though the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act, unlike plant variety protection laws in other countries, has many provisions for farmers, its biggest pitfall is that it is essentially an intellectual property rights (IPR) law.

“The irony is that farmers’ rights have been recognised in a law on intellectual property, when farmers were never asking for IPR in the first place,” Delhi-based legal researcher and policy analyst Shalini Bhutani said.

“This is the first case of its kind in India and hence whatever verdict is given by the court would be trendsetting (precedent setting),” said Ram Kaundinya, Director General of the Federation of Seed Industry of India. “The Indian PPV&FR Act is quite liberal in one sense. It allows farmers to share seeds with friends and family members. They can also sell them unbranded; the restrictions are on branded ones,” he said.

He was of the opinion that the provisions of the act should be stringent if India wants more research-based varieties to come to the country.

Read the full report in Business Line here