Report on Bt brinjal’s commercial use plagiarized: environmentalists

Report on Bt brinjal’s commercial use plagiarized: environmentalists

New Delhi: Key parts of a report prepared by India’s top science academies—which supports genetically modified (GM) Bt brinjal’s commercial release—have been plagiarized from a government newsletter, says an environmentalist group. One of the institutions involved in the report’s preparation denied the allegation.

The Coalition for GM-free India said in an emailed statement that sections of the Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops that discuss regulatory tests carried out on Bt brinjal and its effects on animals were copied from a newsletter of the department of biotechnology, which promotes GM crops.

“The report is a mere superficial overview on the issue of GM crops, without any analysis or critical review... it is absolutely scandalous that the six top science academies used plagiarized material in their attempt to promote Bt brinjal," the statement added.

Bt brinjal is the first GM crop cleared by India’s regulatory bodies for commercial release. But environment groups say tests conducted on and the clearance given to the crop are based on faulty science.

The commercial release of Bt brinjal will help clear the way for a variety of GM crops, including rice, potatoes and tomatoes, and boost investments by multinational crop companies.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has imposed a moratorium on Bt brinjal’s release until there is widespread scientific consensus on its environmental and biosafety aspects.

Ramesh and Planning Commission member K. Kasturirangan had asked six of India’s top science institutes—The Indian Academy of Sciences, The Indian National Science Academy, The Indian National Academy of Engineering, The National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, The National Academy of Medical Sciences and The National Academy of Sciences (India)—to assess the crop’s safety.

Their report, reviewed by Mint, says that commercial release of Bt brinjal does not pose an environmental threat. However, such crops should be constantly monitored after their release for potential long-term health impact.

M. Vijayan, president of Indian National Science Academy, said reports prepared by the academy don’t usually detail individual opinions and reflect the majority view instead.

He also dismissed the claim that parts of the report were plagiarized, saying it merely lacked references and attributions.

“We asked members of all six academies to send their suggestions and the report is a consensus view," Vijayan said by phone. “However, in light of this controversy, we plan to provide references in an updated report. None of our recommendations, however, will change."