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India revokes PepsiCo’s potato patent

  • IASbaba
  • December 11, 2021
  • 0
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ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE

  • GS-2: Economy & Challenges
  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

India revokes PepsiCo’s potato patent

In News: Two years ago PepsiCo India had sued nine Gujarati farmers for allegedly infringing patent rights by growing its registered potato variety.

  • However, now the company’s registration of the variety has been revoked by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights’ Authority (PPV&FRA). 
  • The PPV&FRA questioned the documentation produced by PepsiCo claiming it was the owner of the variety, and thus could be considered the Registered Breeder under the law. 

Brief Background of the issue

  • The FL-2027 variety of potatoes, used in Lays potato chips, was grown by about 12,000 farmers with whom the company had an exclusive contract to sell seeds and buy back their produce.
  • In 2016, the company registered the variety under the PPV&FR Act, 2001
  • Alleging that farmers who were not part of its “collaborative farming programme” were also growing and selling this variety in Gujarat, PepsiCo had filed rights infringement cases against nine farmers.
  • The Frequently Asked Questions or FAQ document had claimed that “only small and marginal farmers involved in subsistence farming” are eligible to claim rights under the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001. The FAQ also said these rights are not for “commercial farmers” and are only meant for “small scale” use.
  • Pepsico cited the FAQ document to justify dragging more than nine farmers to court in 2018 for growing and selling its registered variety without its consent.
  • The company faced product boycotts and major protests across the political spectrum for slapping a ₹4.2 crore lawsuit against four farmers, and ultimately withdrew all cases after government intervention just before Lok Sabha elections in May 2019.

The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Act, 2001:

  • Enacted by India in 2001 adopting sui generis system.
  • It is in conformity with International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), 1978.
  • The legislation recognizes the contributions of both commercial plant breeders and farmers in plant breeding activity and also provides to implement TRIPs in a way that supports the specific socio-economic interests of all the stakeholders including private, public sectors and research institutions, as well as resource-constrained farmers.

Objectives of the PPV & FR Act, 2001:

  • To establish an effective system for the protection of plant varieties, the rights of farmers and plant breeders and to encourage the development of new varieties of plants.
  • To recognize and protect the rights of farmers in respect of their contributions made at any time in conserving, improving and making available plant genetic resources for the development of new plant varieties.
  • To accelerate agricultural development in the country, protect plant breeders’ rights; stimulate investment for research and development both in public & private sector for the development new of plant varieties.
  • Facilitate the growth of seed industry in the country which will ensure the availability of high-quality seeds and planting material to the farmers.

Rights under the Act:

  • Breeders’ Rights: Breeders will have exclusive rights to produce, sell, market, distribute, import or export the protected variety. Breeder can appoint agent/ licensee and may exercise for civil remedy in case of infringement of rights.
  • Researchers’ Rights: Researcher can use any of the registered variety under the Act for conducting experiment or research. This includes the use of a variety as an initial source of variety for the purpose of developing another variety but repeated use needs prior permission of the registered breeder.
  • Farmers’ Rights:
    • A farmer who has evolved or developed a new variety is entitled for registration and protection in like manner as a breeder of a variety;
    • Farmers variety can also be registered as an extant variety;
    • A farmer can save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001 provided farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under the PPV&FR Act, 2001;
    • Farmers are eligible for recognition and rewards for the conservation of Plant Genetic Resources of land races and wild relatives of economic plants;
    • There is also a provision for compensation to the farmers for non-performance of variety under Section 39 (2) of the Act, 2001 and
    • Farmer shall not be liable to pay any fee in any proceeding before the Authority or Registrar or the Tribunal or the High Court under the Act.

Connecting the dots:

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