Union leaders slam the lack of transparency in talks

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.

“When the law allows farmers to grow any variety of crop that they want, why should the Gujarat government persuade the farmers otherwise? ,” said Vittalbhai Dudhatra, president of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh.

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.

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