PepsiCo Frito-Lay loses sole rights to special Indian potato variety

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

PepsiCo claims to have developed the FC5 potato variety, which has a lower moisture content, making it ideal for snacks like potato chips. Pic: GettyImages
PepsiCo claims to have developed the FC5 potato variety, which has a lower moisture content, making it ideal for snacks like potato chips. Pic: GettyImages

Related tags: PepsiCo Frito-Lay, Potato chips, India, Potato, Patent, Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers' Rights

PepsiCo Frito-Lay has lost its exclusive rights to a unique variety of potato after Indian authorities ruled the American snacks giant cannot claim a patent over its seed.

The country’s Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights (PPV&FR) Authority has cancelled a patent held by PepsiCo for the FC5 potato variety grown in the western state of Gujarat in India.

PepsiCo built its first potato chips manufacturing factory in India in 1989, and developed the FC5 variant - also known as the FL 2027, ​which has a lower moisture content, making it ideal for the production of potato chips. It registered the variety in 2016 and supplies the FC5 seed to local farmers, who in turn sell their potatoes to PepsiCo at a fixed price.

However, some farmers started growing the FC5 potato variety on their own, which resulted in the Purchase, New York-headquartered multinational taking them to court in 2019 over alleged patent infringement. PepsiCo later dropped the lawsuits to 'settle the case amicably'.

It also set up a potato chips unit in 2018 in India's eastern state of Odisha to promote a potato varietal called Chipsona. 

Getting to the root of the argument

Activist Kavitha Kuruganti persisted with the fight for famers' rights and submitted a petition to the PPVFR for the revocation of intellectual protection granted to PepsiCo’s FC5 potato variety. She reasoned that policies in India do not allow seed varieties to be patented.

In reviewing the petition, the PPV&FR agreed with Kuruganti’s argument and has now issued a notice to nullify the patent.

KV Prabhu, chairman of PPV&FR, said the certificate of registration has been revoked with immediate effect, but a spokesperson said the company is still assessing it.

“We are aware of the order passed by the PPV&FR Authority and are in the process of reviewing the same.”

Indian farmers have lauded the decision, calling it victory for all local growers.

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