PepsiCo sued four farmers in India claiming that they are growing the same variety of Potatoes that the company uses in making the Lays Chips. The Indian subsidiary of PepsiCo has registered the case against those four farmers earlier this month and the case was first heard on Friday in the state of Gujarat.
The company has offered the farmers to join the other thousands of farmers that are part of the company’s potatoes growing program and will drop the case if they agree, but the lawyer from the farmers has asked for some time, next hearing of the case is due on June 12.
“That was a discussion that happened in the court today,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told CNN. “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 owns brands like Pepsi, Lays, Gatorade and Quaker Oats and it is reportedly seeking damages of 10 million rupees ($143,000) from each of the four farmers.
The company claims that these four farmers are not those who are authorized to grow potatoes of the same variety it uses in making Lays Chips, but farmer unions and activists are fighting back against the company.
Farmers’ associations and activists have called the Indian Government to step in and take action against the company as the letter to government published this week says that the farmers’ rights to grow and sell registered crops are protected under India’s agricultural laws.
“We believe that the intimidation and legal harassment of farmers is happening because farmers are not fully aware of [their] rights,” the letter said. It is also mentioned in the letter that the company sent private detectives to the farmers as potential buyers who secretly recorded videos of the farmers and took samples of the potatoes.
Following public outrage, boycott threats and intervention by the Gujarat Government, Pepsi Co withdrew its cases against the farmers in May.