Plagiarism tarnishes Bt Brinjal report

Academies refute claim

“This does not affect our approach and the specific recommendations remain the same,” said M Vijayan, president of the Indian National Science Academy. The six academies favoured immediate commercial release of genetically modified Bt Brinjal with post-release surveillance.

A non-governmental group of anti-GM activists known as ‘Coalition for GM Free India’ on Saturday described the 25-page report as a “superficial overview rather than a rigorous scientific review” that includes statements “plagiarised from propaganda material by GM crop developers.”

The allegations specifically refer to six paragraphs written by Indian Council of Agriculture Research scientist P Anand Kumar which is found almost verbatim in the article Kumar had written in December 2009 for a biotech magazine brought out by the Department of Biotechnology.

Two of the six academy presidents have acknowledged that the omission of attribution and references was a mistake that would be corrected. However, they insisted that the decision to endorse adoption of Bt Brinjal and GM technology will stand.  

Anti-GM activists lambasted the report for side-stepping large body of evidence pointing to the adverse impact of GM crops.  The coalition questioned the report’s independence since one of the academy presidents, veteran plant scientist Asis Datta, is himself a GM crop developer.

Inquiry sought

“We demand that the Government of India institute an inquiry into this episode since it puts the nation’s scientific establishment to shame,” said the Coalition.

Datta, who is president of National Academy of Sciences, told Deccan Herald that the introduction of GM crops is inevitable. “GM technology should come today or tomorrow.
The technology has to be there. The issue is bio safety which we take care of,” he said.
While favouring GM crops in general and Bt Brinjal in particular, the academies, however, recommended that bulk of the GM products should remain with public sector institutions.

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