ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Tuber of Contention

The controversy over PepsiCo’s filing of cases against potato farmers for growing a particular variety highlights issues beyond just legal rights. It can have far-reaching consequences for farmers’ rights under the law, seed sovereignty and even livelihoods.

The humble potato has been the subject of investigative reporting thanks to a few farmers being sued by the market leader in potato chips, PepsiCo India Holdings. Though the FC5 variety is no ordinary potato, it is the trademark of a variety registered by PepsiCo and is used to make its popular brand of chips called Lays. However, the investigation has veered more towards analysing in depth the business connections of two of the 11 farmers sued, and their associations with companies that make potato chips. There was outrage from farmers’ unions and activists after nine small farmers from Gujarat were sued (four of them for ₹ 1.05 crore each in 2019 and five in 2018) for growing the FC5, the tuber under dispute, which according to Indian law is not a crime. But the outrage was matched by reports suggesting that this “David versus Goliath” contest was not all that it was made out to be.

It emerged that it was not only the nine farmers who were sued but two more from Banaskantha district, Fulchand and Suresh Kachchwaha who—although they did not fit into the small farmer category—along with a third brother from Malgadh, Banaskantha, own 150 acres and are traders and farmers. Fulchand Kachchwaha stated,

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Updated On : 22nd May, 2019
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