Posted for Priya Shetty
India’s reputation as an emerging world power has already taken a hefty beating with the seemingly doomed Commonwealth Games. Now its scientific reputation is under threat too. This week, a much-anticipated report on GM crops released by India’s top six science academies, which advocated the introduction of GM brinjal (aubergine), turns out to contain several lines plagiarised from two reports by GM advocate Anand Kumar, at the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology in Delhi, India.
Yesterday, Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh rejected the report, saying it “lacked scientific rigour”. Earlier this year, Ramesh had put a moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal, modified to produce a protein from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium that is toxic to insect pests, until its safety to human health and the environment had been established.
If approved, Bt brinjal would be India’s first GM food crop. But it doesn’t look like the moratorium will be lifted any time soon. Ramesh told Indian newspapers yesterday that “my idea of referring the GM crops to academics was to get a view of the larger scientific community but not the view of one Anand Kumar which I knew even before the moratorium was put on Bt brinjal".
Kumar, who is developing his own variety of Bt brinjal, certainly seems to be at the centre of this mess.
The Inter-Academy report, which has no citations or references to bolster its credibility, contains several lines (including data) copied verbatim from a report entitled Bt Brinjal: A Pioneering Push that Kumar wrote for Biotech News last December, and another published last year by the Monsanto-funded International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), to which Kumar had contributed.
Kumar has defended the repetition of identical text, saying that as a member of one of the six academies, his “views were sought by the academies and the paragraphs in question are my inputs to the academies’ report”.
M. Vijayan, president of the Indian National Science Academy (INSA), which co-authored the report to Ramesh, said that the plagiarism was “unfortunate — we are devastated. This should not have happened”. Vijayan told Nature that INSA will issue a statement later today commenting on the issue further.
Image: photo by joeathialy via Flickr under Creative Commons