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PepsiCo withdraws lawsuits against Indian potato farmers

A customer picks packets of Lay's potato chips at a shop in Ahmedabad, India

PepsiCo Inc has formally withdrawn lawsuits against Indian farmers that the snack food and drinks maker had accused of infringing its patent by cultivating a potato variety, the company and the growers said on Friday.

PepsiCo had sued nine farmers for cultivating the FC5 potato variety, grown exclusively for its popular Lay’s potato chips. The FC5 variety has a lower moisture content required to make snacks such as potato chips.

Soon after suing the farmers, PepsiCo came under political pressure from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and some of its allies who asked the U.S. company to withdraw lawsuits against potato farmers, who come from Gujarat, Modi’s home state ruled by the BJP.

Bowing to pressure, PepsiCo on May 2 agreed to take its lawsuits back.

“It’s a victory for us, but PepsiCo’s decision to file lawsuits against the farmers has sullied their reputation and the company now must apologise,” Anand Yagnik, the potato growers’ lawyer told a news conference in Ahmedabad, the business hub of Gujarat.

The submission made in the court to withdraw lawsuits against the farmers “is in sync with its publicly stated position,” a PepsiCo spokesman said.

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