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In the wake of PepsiCo withdrawing its cases against Gujarat potato growers, farmers groups are still worried about the dilution of their rights by state and Central governments.

Sources familiar with this week’s negotiations between PepsiCo and the Gujarat government say that the company was given an “assurance for a long-term amicable settlement” regarding its seed-protection concerns.

Some reports have also suggested that the state government on Friday agreed to persuade farmers to join the company’s contract farming programme and not to grow its registered variety without permission. There are also concerns that PepsiCo is yet to officially communicate its decision to withdraw the cases to the court.


Chips at stake in the PepsiCo-farmers fight


“When the law allows farmers to grow any variety of crop that they want, why should the Gujarat government persuade the farmers otherwise? Today it is PepsiCo and tomorrow, it will be another company,” said Vittalbhai Dudhatra, president of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. “If such deals are struck, government will face resistance from farmers.”

Other leaders slammed the non-transparent nature of the discussions, which exclude farmers.

On Saturday, the Gujarat government denied being party to any such deal. “The PepsiCo executives only came to [meet the Chief secretary in Ahmedabad] and apprise us of their decision to withdraw the cases unconditionally. The law allows farmers to grow whatever they want,” said B.M. Modi, state’s agriculture director. There is also a lack of clarity on whether PepsiCo’s contract farming programme complies with the Gujarat State law requiring tripartite agreements between the farmer, the company and the government, he added.


Pepsico agrees to withdraw cases against Gujarat farmers


Meanwhile, at the Central level, the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Authority is considering an extension of the period of protection for registered varieties, which farmers fear will dilute their rights.

In its October 2018 meeting, the Authority— which includes government officials, agriculture scientists, farmers groups and seed industry representatives — considered a proposal to increase the protection period for field crops from 15 years to 20 years, and for trees and vines from 18 years to 25 years. This would involve amending Indian law to bring it in line with international law, said the minutes for the meeting, adding that the proposal was deferred in order to generate more inputs.


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By udaen

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