‘Hot potato’: PepsiCo could face stir in Gujarat farmers’ support

AHMEDABAD: The ongoing tussle between Gujarat’s potato farmers and PepsiCo seems to be snowballing into a nationwide agitation against the food and beverages giant which has dragged the farmers into a legal battle over growing a variety of potatoes, which it claims to be registered in its name.

As many as 70 farmer and civil society organisations, researchers, scientists and seed producers’ associations came together here on Tuesday to form the Kisan Adhikar Manch (KAM) to support the farmers. They have demanded an unconditional withdrawal of the court cases against the farmers.

The company has filed legal suits against nine farmers from Aravalli, Sabarkantha and Banaskantha districts in north Gujarat, claiming compensation of Rs 1 crore each for growing FL 2027 variety of potato for which the company has taken a Plant Variety Certificate (PVC) under the provisions of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR), Act 2001. PepsiCo uses this variety to manufacture its popular Lay’s brand of potato chips.

The first meeting of the newly-formed Manch has been convened on Friday to decide on the future course of action. A coordination committee would be set up at the meeting, Kapil Shah, who runs an NGO ‘Jatan’ to promote organic farming, said.

Maganbhai Patel, a member of the working committee of RSS affiliate Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, which has also come in the support of the farmers, told reporters: “We are demanding clarifications on the provisions of Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR), Act. Farmers must have rights on all types of seeds or crop including potatoes, so that no company, organisation, educational institution or scientist harasses them in future.”