Bowing to pressure, PepsiCo withdraws its lawsuit against four Indian potato farmers


  • After a week of legal wrangling and discussions, PepsiCo decided to withdraw its lawsuit against four Indian smalholder farmers. The lawsuit had been filed in Gujarat in April.
  • The farmers in question had allegedly infringed the corporation’s patent by growing a type of potato - FC5 which are used in the production of Lay’s chips.
  • Pepsi had been seeking damages of ₹10 million each from four farmers, saying it had exclusive rights to the potato in India since 2016.
  • Not only did activists petition the government to intervene, but the lawsuit provided a strong opportunity for India’s campaigning politicians to show their support to farmers, who are considered a strong vote bank.

After a week of legal wrangling and discussions, PepsiCo decided to withdraw its lawsuit against four Indian smalholder farmers. The lawsuit had been filed in Gujarat in April.

Prior to the withdrawal, it had also attempted to settle with the farmers by offering them the chance to sell all the FC5 potatoes they produced to Lay’s or stop producing them altogether.

The farmers in question had allegedly infringed the corporation’s patent by growing a type of potato - FC5 which are used in the production of Lay’s chips.

According to the filing in a district court in Ahmedabad, Pepsi had been seeking damages of ₹10 million each from four farmers, saying it had exclusive rights to the potato in India since 2016 after registering it under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPVFR) Act. The potato variety has a lower moisture requirement.

PepsiCo did clarify that while hundreds of farmers had been allowed to cultivate the potato, the four farmers in question had been granted the right.

Bad timing

It appears that Pepsi chose the wrong time to pick a fight with Indian farmers. India is a popular market for the company’s products and the backlash was severe.

Not only were the PR machines lapping up the “David vs Goliath” narrative, but the lawsuit provided a strong opportunity for India’s campaigning politicians to show their support to farmers, who are considered a strong vote bank.

Threats of a boycott of Pepsi products came from Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, the spokesperson of the BJP’s Delhi unit, unless the lawsuit was withdrawn swiftly.

The Bhartiya Kisan Sangh and Swadesh Jagran Manch, both affiliates of the RSS, both rallied against PepsiCo, with the former calling on the government to establish the farmers’ rights to grow the potato and the latter accusing the company of “coercing farmers” through it settlement offer.

Even on the other side, Ahmed Patel, an MP from the Opposition party the Congress called upon the state government of Gujarat, which is led by the BJP, to intervene. In a tweet, Patel said that the lawsuit was a “violation of the farmers' rights”.

Even activists weighed in.Around 200 activists petitionedIndia’s Department of Agriculture, calling the lawsuit against the farmers "false and untenable". Legal funds were also raised on behalf of the farmers.


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