Farmers big win after PepsiCo cancels potato patent

India has canceled a patent for a potato variety grown exclusively for PepsiCo Inc’s popular Lay’s potato chips, according to an order issued by the Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Protection (PPVFR) authority on Friday.

In 2019, PepsiCo sued some Indian farmers based in the western state of Gujarat for cultivating the FC5 potato variety, which has a low moisture content for making snacks such as potato chips.

Withdrawing the lawsuits that same year, the New York-based company said it wanted to settle the issue amicably.

Later, farmers’ rights activist Kavita Kuruganti petitioned the PPVFR authority to revoke the intellectual protection granted to PepsiCo’s FC5 potato variety, saying that India’s regulations do not allow patents on seed varieties.

The PPVFR authority agreed with Kuruganti’s contention that Pepsi could not claim a patent on a seed variety.

“The certificate of registration … is hereby revoked with immediate effect,” KV Prabhu, chairman of the PPVFR authority, said in an order seen by Reuters.

A PepsiCo India spokesperson said: “We are aware of the order passed by the PPVFR Authority and are in the process of reviewing it.”

PepsiCo has said that it has developed the FC5 variety of potato, and registered the feature in 2016.

The company, which set up its first potato chips plant in India in 1989, supplies the FC5 seed variety to a group of farmers, who in turn sell their products to the company at a fixed price.

Appreciating the decision of the PPVFR authority, potato farmers of Gujarat called it a victory for the growers.

Bipin Patel, one of the farmers from Gujarat who was sued by Pepsi in 2019, said, “The order is a huge victory for the farmers of India, and reaffirms their right to cultivate any crop.”