Pepsi suing local farmers in India for growing potatoes it claims it owns

Food and drink giant Pepsi is going after local small-time farmers in India who they are growing potatoes that the company says it owns.

The company’s Indian subsidiary filed the lawsuit against the farmers earlier this month, according to CNN after it caught four locals growing the FL-2027 potato, which Pepsi claims it has had exclusive rights to growing in India since 2016.

FL-2027 potatoes have been registered to be exclusively used in all of Lay’s classic potato chips.

In the lawsuit, Pepsi, whose market cap is roughly $177 billion, is seeking $143,000 each for growing it without its permission.

The company said it has given permission to grow the special potato to several hundred other farmers in the country but not the ones named in the lawsuit.

On Friday, Pepsi told CNN that it has offered to end the suit if the farmers either agree to join its potato growing program or grow another type of potato.

“That way, we are willing to let go of the case,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told CNN.

A lawyer for the farmers responded by asking for more time to consider the offer.

The next court date is set for June 12.

However, many local farmer unions and activists in India are fighting back and are urging the Indian government to intervene.

CNN obtained a letter from one group sent to government officials last week that cited 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.

What’s more, locals are accusing the soda giant of sending private detectives posing as potential buyers to various farms to secretly record video of them and take samples of their potatoes.

A spokesperson for PepsiCo did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment.

One of the Indian advocacy groups fighting the New York-based company said its actions are "against food sovereignty" and the "sovereignty of the nation."