News PepsiCo India Holding (PIH) has filed a case against 11 farmers of Gujarat for alleged infringement of its Intellectual Property Right (IPR) of a potato variety named FL 2027, also called FC5, which the farmers allegedly produced without the company’s approval. More in News

  • PIH has claimed that in 2016 it obtained registration under The Protection of Plant Varieties and Protection of Farmers Rights Act 2001 (PPVPFR) to breed a special variety of potato, which is used in making "Lays" chips.
  • PIH had complained that few farmers from Gujarat were growing, producing, selling the FL-2027 variety illegally in violation of the PPVFR Act.
  • Later, the civil court has restrained the farmers from growing or selling the potato variety, finding prima facie evidence.
  • However, due to political and civil society pressure, PepsiCo India has now “proposed to amicably settle with people who were unlawfully using seeds of its registered variety”
The Protection of Plant Varieties and Protection of Farmers Rights Act 2001 ·The Act was made under the obligations of India under TRIPS (Agreement of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) for protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders ·It facilitates the growth of the seed industry in the country which will ensure the availability of high-quality seeds and planting material to the farmers. ·The Act creates the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights Authority and Plant Varieties Registry, which can register new plant varieties if they conform to the criteria of "novelty, distinctiveness, uniformity and stability". ·Under Section 64, a registered variety can be cultivated only by the registered breeder or its licensee, and cultivation of the same by anyone else will constitute infringement, leading to penalties. ·However, Section 39 of the Act allows a farmer ‘to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act’ ·Section 42 protects "innocent infringement" by farmers who were not aware of existence of registration of the seed variety.
  • Intellectual property right: Plant Breeders Rights granted in India are unique and different from those granted anywhere else due to the farmers’ rights orientation. However, India’s PPVFR act may weakens India’s stand on TRIPS obligation. Globally, The International Intellectual Property regulations ensure that breeders (of plants or seeds) have sole rights over the varieties they develop, disregarding rights of farmers
  • Impact contractual farming: This case may act as a deterrent for other companies that depend on a similar method of contract farming and try to enforce their exclusivity
PIH model of contract farming for chips works on exclusivity over the seeds to ensure raw material supplies while ITC, which sells potato chips, sets farmers free to sell their produce to anyone and ITC is just one of the buyers. ITC claim to work with farmers to help them increase yield.
  • Impact productivity in agriculture: This could be a blow to corporate efforts to improve productivity in the Indian farm sector. Indian farmers may lose out on access to new, improved varieties of seeds as an outcome of this case
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