“PEPSICO’S ANNOUNCEMENT THAT IT WILL WITHDRAW ITS IPR INFRINGEMENT CASES AGAINST FARMERS IS A MAJOR VICTORY FOR INDIAN FARMERS – FARMERS’ SEED FREEDOMS SHOULD CONTINUE AS PER INDIAN LAW AND SHOULD BE UPHELD”
TIME THAT THE GOVERNMENT & CONCERNED AUTHORITIES PUT FIRM MECHANISMS IN PLACE TO AVOID A REPETITION OF THE EPISODE AND TO PROTECT FARMERS’ RIGHTS UNAMBIGUOUSLY
EXEMPLARY DAMAGES OUGHT TO BE RECOVERED FROM THE MNC FOR HARASSING FARMERS WHEN THE LAW IN THE COUNTRY IS CLEAR
New Delhi / Ahmedabad, May 2nd 2019: In a significant development in a rapidly unfolding episode, PepsiCo India announced in a statement this evening that “it has agreed to withdraw” its cases against potato farmers of Gujarat. Farmers rights activists termed this as a major victory for all farmers of India provided it is unconditional. They explained that farmers’ seed freedoms have remained unaffected in this case due to farmers organisations and citizen pressure. They hoped that PepsiCo and others would have learnt a good lesson about farmers’ rights in India’s PPV&FR Act 2001 from this episode and hoped that such harassment of farmers will not get repeated again.
Earlier in the day, ASHA put out a statement saying that any settlement which does not reiterate and reinforce Section 39 (1) (iv) of the PPV&FR Act was not acceptable and even unpardonable.
“While we are not aware of the discussions that PepsiCo is referring to and not even with which government “it has agreed” with, we believe that this withdrawal is an acceptance of farmers rights, and this is apt. PepsiCo should have apologised for the intimidation and harassment of farmers in this case, and it should have been penalised for adopting these tactics against farmers. PepsiCo should also pay compensation to the sued farmers”, the activists said.
“We also believe that the government should put into place clear mechanisms to avoid a repetition of this episode in future. For this, all Certificates of Registration should explicitly state that such a Certificate and any rights associated with it are conditional to certain other sections of the legislation, with Section 39 (1) (iv) being one such important condition.
For more information, contact :
Kapil Shah – 7567916751
Kavitha Kuruganti – 8880067772
Shalini Bhutani – 9810433076
‘SETTLEMENT’ WITH PEPSICO INDIA WILL BE GREAT DISSERVICE TO THE FARMERS OF INDIA
ANYTHING LESS THAN A FULL REITERATION OF FARMERS’ RIGHTS OVER BREEDERS RIGHTS AS PER INDIAN LAW IN UNACCEPTABLE: ALLIANCE FOR SUSTAINABLE & HOLISTIC AGRICULTURE (ASHA)
New Delhi / Ahmedabad, May 2nd 2019: Reacting to a late evening report from Gujarat that the state government is trying an ‘out-of-court’ settlement in the ongoing dispute in the PepsiCo Vs. Potato Farmers cases, farmers’ rights advocacy platform ASHA said that nothing less than a clear reiteration of Section 39(1)(iv) of the Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act 2001 is satisfactory and justifiable. This specific section of the sui generis statute that India brought in in 2001, provides an entitlement to farmers of India to cultivate any variety that they would like to, including PVP-registered varieties. It is clear that Section 39(1)(iv) is applicable irrespective of source of seed, type of seed, type of registrant, type of crop, and to who and how the harvest was sold. Nothing matters except whether the farmer has sold branded seeds or not, as far as farmers’ rights are concerned, explained ASHA. ASHA emphasised that implementation of any Act requires the ‘legislative intent’ also to be upheld. In this case, it is evident from the very title of the Act, that farmers’ apriori seed rights are upheld over the breeder’s economic right over the PVP-protected variety.
“Earlier the state government’s Deputy Chief Minister gave a media statement on 27th April 2019 that the state government would implead in the case. The government’s thinking seems to have changed now, however. It is also now talking about an out-of-court settlement apparently, even as PepsiCo proposed a ‘settlement’ in the last Court hearing on April 26th 2019. In any of these attempts, there should be absolutely no compromise on farmers’ rights and seed sovereignty. The state government should therefore make Section 39 (1) (iv) as the basis of any settlement, if at all, and anything less than that is unacceptable. It would have failed all the farmers in India and not just the sued farmers in question, if it succumbs to corporate lobbying here. Indian farmers cannot pardon that”, said Kapil Shah of Jatan, Gujarat.
Readers would recall that under pressure from farmers’ organisations and ordinary citizens who were aghast with indignation at PepsiCo’s actions against farmers, Gujarat’s Deputy Chief Minister Shri Nitinbhai Ratilal Patel had announced that the government would intervene by impleading in the ongoing case. However, as per media reports that emerged yesterday evening, the government is now attempting to get a settlement going. The Government of Gujarat must know that not only the Gujarat farmers, but the whole world is watching the developments in the case, with citizens standing firmly on the side of farmers. If the Government wants to act in favour of farmers as announced, it should keep its focus on the farming community of the nation, beyond the farmers who have been sued in unethical and illegal way.
“In this election season, it may seem expedient for the Gujarat government to attempt to close the matter fast. However, these cases raise matters of immense significance not just for the sued potato farmers in Gujarat but for the seed freedoms of all Indian farmers. There was a clear legislative intent behind the creation of the PPV&FR Act, 2001. Many farmers’ groups, civil society organisations, intellectual property experts, public interest lawyers, agriculture scientists, plant breeders and even the seed industry representatives were involved in the shaping of the statute in India. After the Bill was tabled in 1999 for the first time, it went to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). The JPC had held extensive consultations all over the country. Based on the comments it received, the Committee revised the Bill thoroughly and in place of an inadequate Section 31 on farmers’ rights in the original Bill, the revised Bill had Section 39 (1) (iv) included, as it now exists in the Act. During the Parliamentary debate on the Bill in August 2001, many lawmakers emphasised the need to not only acknowledge the contributions of farmers in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for food and farming, but also to recognise them as breeders. Additionally, as relevant to this case, our lawmakers reiterated the need to protect farmers’ right as cultivators (of both crop and seed), using seed from even varieties protected by intellectual property rights (IPR). This legislative intent is very important to note, in any interpretation of farmers’ legally guaranteed rights in this Act”, said Shalini Bhutani, legal expert.
Kavitha Kuruganti, ASHA, said that “PepsiCo India should understand clearly that this is India, and not USA, where hundreds of farmers have been sued by giant seed industry like Monsanto Inc. that has milked millions of dollars from farmers. PepsiCo should withdraw the cases unconditionally, explicitly acknowledging that its rights under the law are indeed subject to farmers’ rights. It is PepsiCo that should be asked to sign an undertaking that this will not happen to our farmers again. It should apologise to the defendant-farmers and compensate them adequately for trespassing their farms, breaching their privacy, video recording without farmer’s knowledge, intimidation, unnecessary expenses and harassment they have been subjected to”.
Vinay Mahajan, a farmers’ rights activist said, “The government must stand by the letter and spirit of the act, which clearly states farmers’ rights over breeders’ rights”.
The ongoing cases in different Courts of Gujarat, including appeals in the High Court, appear to be PepsiCo India’s attempts to crush all competition from local potato chip-makers or seed traders, and to cut off their competitors’ raw material supplies from potato farmers. While nine cases of farmers are ongoing in different courts including the Commercial Court in Ahmedabad, there are also some cases against cold storage owners and competitors that have reached the High Court of Gujarat. ASHA emphasises that it is concerned only with the farmers’ cases.