New Delhi: American food and beverage company PepsiCo has offered to settle an ongoing row with farmers in the state of Gujarat after the company filed a lawsuit against them for growing a patented variety of potatoes without its consent.

In a statement released by PepsiCo India, the food and beverage major said that it has "proposed to amicably settle with people who were unlawfully using seeds of its registered variety. PepsiCo has also proposed that they may become part of its collaborative potato farming program."

PepsiCo dragged four farmers from the Sabarkantha district in the western state of Gujarat to court over claims that they illegal cultivated the FC5 variety of potato seeds which are patented by food and beverage company. It slapped them with a lawsuit of 1.05 crore each for growing the variety without its permission. The company obtained exclusive rights to grow this variety of potato under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001. These potatoes are used by the company to make its Lay’s brand of chips in India.

However, PepsiCo is now willing to settle the matter with the farmers after dragging them to court.

It has offered a recourse to the farmers that requires them to sign an agreement stating that they will discontinue the use of the FC5 variety. If farmers do not wish to join the company’s collaborative potato farming program “they can simply sign an agreement and grow other available varieties of potatoes. It is significant to note that the company’s collaborative potato farming program is best in class and is built on strong backward and forward linkages that improve livelihoods by using protected seeds," a company spokesperson said in the statement.

The matter received severe backlash as 190 activists gathered in support for the farmers in Gujarat and even sought the intervention of the Union government to ask PepsiCo to withdraw the case, according to a news report by PTI.

“The company was compelled to take the judicial recourse as a last resort to safeguard the larger interest of thousands of farmers that are engaged with its collaborative potato farming program. PepsiCo India remains deeply committed to resolving the matter and ensuring adoption of best farming practices," the statement added.

PepsiCo set up its first potato chips plant in India in Channo, district Sangrur, Punjab in 1989.

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