The giant corporation PepsiCo is going after four farmers in India over some potatoes. They are claiming that the Indian farmers are illegally growing a certain type of potato that is registered and exclusive to Lays chips, reports Business Insider. PepsiCo is the owner of Lay’s potato chips.
PepsiCo, which is valued at around $177 billion, is asking four small-time Indian farmers to pony up $143,000 each for growing the FL-2027 potato. The company said that it has the exclusive rights to the potato in India since 2016. And growing the potato without the permission of PepsiCo falls under a rights infringement under Section 64 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 2001.
PepsiCo is claiming to protect the thousands of authorized farmers who are growing the potato with their permission. The company’s lawyer told the Indian court, located in Gujarat, that PepsiCo would drop the case if the four farmers joined their authorized cultivation program.
A PepsiCo spokesperson told CNN, “That was a discussion that happened in the court today. We told them, why don’t you join our program and we will provide seeds … Either join us or grow other potatoes. That way, we are willing to let go of the case.”
PepsiCo also said that they will not seek any monetary compensation if the farmers accept the deal.
Meanwhile, the farmers are mulling over whether to take the deal. However, farmer associations and activists are coming to the aid of the four farmers. They’re claiming that the farmers under India’s agricultural law, under Section 39 of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights, have a right to grow and sell the potatoes. The law states farmers are allowed, “to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act,” reports The Hindu. The only exception is that they are not allowed to sell “branded seed.”
“We believe that the intimidation and legal harassment of farmers is happening because farmers are not fully aware of [their] rights,” according to a letter obtained by CNN addressed to the Indian government by the farmer’s groups. The letter also claimed that PepsiCo sent undercover private detectives to the farmers to pose as potential buyers to secretly film and collect samples from them.
This seems like a bad move for PepsiCo in bullying some Indian farmers. Forget the ethics for it and think about the business side. India is a gigantic market and if this story gets bigger, Indian people might start boycotting Pepsi. That’s a ton of money left on the table just for some potatoes.