New Delhi, Sept. 26: The heads of Indias science academies today conceded that they had unknowingly used a plagiarised report to declare that genetically-modified (GM) brinjal is safe and said that they would correct the mistake.
Six Indian science academies had earlier this week approved the limited release of GM brinjal for cultivation in a joint report that contained 60 lines of plagiarised text, a near verbatim reproduction of an article in a biotechnology advocacy newsletter which itself had lines extracted from an industry-supported publication.
This is unfortunate — we are devastated. This should not have happened, said M. Vijayan, the president of the Indian National Science Academy, and a senior faculty member at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.
The academies will now examine the report again, introduce references for all text extracted from earlier publications, and release the names of all the scientists who contributed to the report, Vijayan told The Telegraph. But, he said, the main recommendations are unlikely to change.
The report had recommended limited release of GM brinjal for cultivation to be followed by surveillance to look for effects, if any, on the health of people.
In preparing the report, the academies had relied on oral, written, and documentary information provided by fellows of the academy, and the error appeared to have occurred in this process, another head of an academy said.
There is absolutely no justification for what has happened, said Ajay Sood, president of the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore and a professor of physics at the IISc, Bangalore. But many scientists are involved in the consultations — we cannot police each other.
A coalition of environmental groups has said the cut-and-paste job in the report suggests that instead of pursuing an independent and rigorous evaluation of GM crop science, the academies appeared to have relied on scientists known to be leaning towards GM crops.
Where is the independent, non-biased scientific review? the coalition said in a statement today.
The coalition had yesterday shown that a section of the academies report contained text from an article written by P. Ananda Kumar, director of the National Centre for Plant Biotechnology, New Delhi, who has himself been involved in developing GM brinjal since the mid-1990s.