Launching a scathing critique on the “Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops” and making a shocking revelation, the Coalition for GM Free India pointed out that the report has plagiarized sections from the article of a GM crop developer in a GM-promoter’s newsletter and termed the report which recommended Bt Brinjal for commercial cultivation propaganda material rather than a scientific review.

The “Inter-Academy Report on GM Crops” had been recently circulated to Fellows in the six science academies involved in the creation of the report. “The report is a mere, superficial overview on the issue of GM crops, without any analysis or critical review and in this case, merely a compilation of broad sweeping statements including ones plagiarized from propaganda material by GM crop developers; it is a biased, political position paper by the Science Academies, rather than a rigorous scientific review that it is supposed to be; it is absolutely scandalous that the six top science academies used plagiarized material in their attempt to promote Bt Brinjal”, observed the Coalition. The Coalition said that if this is the lack of scientificity that Indian scientists continue to exhibit, the public has to disown them. It warned the public not to trust such reports.
 
“The report is shoddy and it is unacceptable that these Academies can release a report without sufficient arguments and supporting evidence. The civil society is constantly accused of being unscientific – where is the science in the Science Academies here? The lack of scientific objectivity is apparent in the opportunistic discounting and denial of uncomfortable facts and this is evident in the notable absence of any reference to genuine criticism and evidence (scientific and otherwise) about GM crops. It is clear that no cognizance was taken of “contradictory science” despite the large body of literature, reports which show the adverse impacts of GM crops that are available, since none of them find any mention in the report. In fact, when we approached the INSA with a large dossier of such material, the officials there refused to accept the material saying that the review being undertaken was ‘closed process’. We had to subsequently courier the material which apparently got completely ignored”, said the Coalition.
 
The largest section of this report by the six science academies, signed off by at least one Academy’s head who is a GM crop developer himself, is on Bt Brinjal. While the usual issue of why GM crop developers don’t recluse themselves from getting involved in such reviews on simple grounds of non-biased, independent processes to be adopted arises yet again, what is interesting to note is that entire paragraphs of the section on Bt Brinjal have been directly excerpted from an article from a GM crop developer, Dr P Ananda Kumar, who is also part of the GEAC and the discredited ECII, by the Department of Biotechnology in its propaganda newsletter! “We are appalled not just at the lack of rigor demonstrated by such ‘esteemed’ scientific bodies in the country but the brazen bias exhibited. Reports like this destroy credibility, if any, of these agencies and their scientists”, said the Coalition in a statement. The Indian scientific establishment stands exposed today of its top brass being unscientific, non-rigorous and brazenly biased and it is a shame that there are many voices in the government and media which want decision-making to depend on such sources.
 
Bt brinjal is one of the significant issues considered by the report, in which case most importance should have been given to the Bt brinjal segment and the rigour with which various issues pertaining to this controversial product and its biosafety have been addressed so far. However the coalition would like to point to that the Bt brinjal section of the report (page 18-21) is almost a verbatim copy from Dr. P. Ananda Kumar’s article Bt Brinjal –  A Pioneering Push in Biotech News, Vol. 4, No 6, December 2009 (published on behalf of the Dept of Biotechnology, Government of India. (http://biotechnews.co.in/pdf2009/BIOTEHNEWSFINALCOPY.pdf) and an interview with the Minister of State for Science & Technology. The section on Bt brinjal which forms a significant part of the work and based on which the inter-academy team has declared that (pg 24), “The overwhelming view is that the available evidence has shown, adequately and beyond reasonable doubt, that Bt brinjal is safe for human consumption and that its environmental effects are negligible” seems to be based on only one bit of “overwhelming” pro-Bt brinjal evidence that the committee has seen and used! Dr. P. Ananda Kumar, Project Director, National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology, IARI, is a GM crop developer who has worked on BT brinjal and other GM crops. The Coalition had raised the issue of conflict of interest regarding his inputs shaping decision-making in the past too. It is indeed unfortunate that the Science Academies can fall back on his “clean chit” on biosafety of GM crops in their report.
 
The Coalition pointed out that the public should stop placing their trust in Science Academies which can come up with such scandalous and objectionable propaganda material in the name of Science.
 
For more information, contact:
1.       Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virsat Mission: 09393001550
2.       Sridhar Radhakrishnan, Thanal: 09995358205
3.       Rajesh Krishnan, Greenpeace India: 09845650032

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