Vol. XLIII No. 19 May 12, 2019

A Significant Victory

Below we publish the statement issued by the All India Kisan Sabha on May 3

PEPSICO’S expression of intent to withdraw lawsuit against farmers is a significant victory in the struggle for protecting farmers’ seed freedoms. However, nothing concrete has been done by them yet in that direction. AIKS demands that the company come clear and walk the talk or brace for more intense protests. The Gujarat state government should also come clear on what are the negotiations that it is having with the company. The All India Kisan Sabha congratulates the farmers and all organisations and activists who stood against the intimidatory tactics of PepsiCo who filed a lawsuit against 11 farmers in Gujarat to the tune of more than a crore each on farmers. The Boycott Lays/Pepsi call supported spontaneously by people of our country and jointly carried forward by numerous organisations has helped create the pressure on the company. AIKS demands that strong deterrent action against PepsiCo for the harassment meted out to farmers be taken including exemplary compensation and revocation of license if the company does not comply with such decision. We also demand an unconditional apology from PepsiCo for such blatant violation of farmers’ seed freedoms.

The issue brought to fore the manner in which predatory agribusinesses driven by the sole motive of profit maximisation and aiming to take-over agriculture have least respect for the laws of the land or for farmers’ seed rights and freedoms. AIKS and numerous other organisations as well as individuals have been pointing out to such eventualities under a paradigm of seed laws and intellectual property norms that aid monopolies and corporate profiteering.

The Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001 (PPVFR Act) Section 39(1)(iv) clearly states “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act – a farmer shall be deemed to be entitled to save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share or sell his farm produce including seed of a variety protected under this Act in the same manner as he was entitled before the coming into the force of this Act, provided that the farmer shall not be entitled to sell branded seed of a variety protected under this Act”. AIKS demands that the different state governments and the central government should adhere to this in any matter concerning seed rights and freedoms of farmers. Clear fool-proof mechanism to ensure that the registration accorded to varieties are compliant with the principles enshrined in Section 39 (1) (iv).

Few other questions also need to be addressed in the light of this episode. There is the need to ensure price control, address illegal seed trade, monitoring of contract farming, state governments and agricultural departments should strengthen mechanism for seed traceability and monitoring of agribusinesses and traders. Gujarat state government should ensure that there should be no repetition of this kind of an episode with exemplary action against PepsiCo and all discussions with the company should be transparent.

AIKS calls upon farmers, individuals and organisations to remain vigilant and continue resistance to predatory agribusinesses and the neoliberal paradigm that allows such freedom to monopolies. AIKS in coordination with other organisations and individuals will take steps to ensure that state governments and agricultural departments comply with the broad framework of Section 39 (1) (iv) of PPVFR Act. The boycott call against Lays and other products of PepsiCo shall remain as a strong message that no company can dare to question the seed rights and freedoms of farmers.