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Frauds Of Swaminathan, Manmohan and Pitroda Kind

Posted by egovindia on August 4, 2006

Frauds Of Swaminathan, Manmohan and Pitroda Kind

 

Friends,

This is an excellent article about how easily people like Swaminathan, Manmohan and Pitroda could get dubious PhD and Patents and make a fool of the people.

 

Ravinder Singh

 

http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/92prom.html

Scientific fraud and the power structure of science

Brian Martin

Published in Prometheus, Vol. 10, No. 1, June 1992, pp. 83-98.


email: bmartin@uow.edu.au

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Brian Martin’s publications on fraud and plagiarism

Brian Martin’s publications

Brian Martin’s website

ABSTRACT: In the routine practice of scientific research, there are many types of misrepresentation and bias which could be considered dubious. However, only a few narrowly defined behaviours are singled out and castigated as scientific fraud. A narrow definition of scientific fraud is convenient to the groups in society — scientific elites, and powerful government and corporate interests — that have the dominant influence on priorities in science. Several prominent Australian cases illustrate how the denunciation of fraud helps to paint the rest of scientific behaviour as blameless.

Keywords: scientific fraud, bias, misrepresentation

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I thank Randall Collins, Clyde Manwell, David Murray, Terry Stokes, Peter Toohey and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier drafts.

Ask most scientists about scientific fraud and they will readily tell you what it is. The most extreme cases are obvious: manufacturing data and altering experimental results. Then there is plagiarism: using someone else’s text or data without acknowledgement. More difficult are the borderline cases: minor fudging of data, reporting only the good results and not citing other people’s work that should be given credit. Because obvious fraud is thought to be both rare and extremely serious, the normal idea is that it warrants serious penalties.

That is the usual picture, anyway, for public consumption. Probe a bit more deeply into scientific activities, and you will find that fraud is neither clear-cut nor rare. Stories abound of the stealing of credit for ideas. They range from the PhD supervisor who published his student’s work under his own name, to the top scientist who, as a referee, delayed publication of a rival’s work in order to obtain full credit for it himself — including a Nobel Prize. There are also stories of various other forms of cheating.

The actual practice of science is a complex business. There are intricate experiments, with continual changes of equipment, protocols and procedural details. There are all sorts of measurements, with much more potential data thrown away than saved. There are pages of theoretical calculations thrown away for every equation published. There are stacks of insufficiently documented data sheets and computer outputs. Next to the desks on which scientific papers are prepared are books, journals, preprints, correspondence and notes. In the heads of scientists are various half-formed ideas, long-held desires, prejudices, and the vague recollections of articles read, seminars attended, conversations with colleagues and discussions with collaborators.

In this messy process of doing science, there are no red lights which flash when someone does something ‘fraudulent’. It is quite an accomplishment for scientists to create a semblance of order in their work, so that they can give the impression of doing proper science. It also takes considerable effort for them to paint a convincing picture of the violation of proper practice, namely what is called fraud, within this semblance of order.

Another way to say this is to say that, out of the many things that scientists do, they attach meaning only to some things, which they call ‘doing science’ or ‘applying the scientific method’ [1]. The same applies to fraud. Fraud is what scientists tell each other is fraud.

This raises the question, why are certain things called fraud and others not? My general answer is that the social definition of fraud is one which is convenient to most of the powerful groups associated with science. This includes government and corporate sponsors of scientific research, and the scientific community itself, especially scientific elites.

My argument proceeds this way. A host of things go on in scientific research that could be open to suspicion. Some of these are accepted as standard practice, others are tolerated, and some are considered unacceptable. Why? There are a number of reasons, but here the focus is on the power structure of science, namely the interest groups that fund science and reap disproportionate benefits from it. This analysis then is applied to a number of Australian cases.

POTENTIALLY DUBIOUS PRACTICES IN SCIENCE

There are a large number of activities in science that can be called ‘potentially dubious’, meaning that they might well be considered unethical or reprehensible if sufficient numbers of scientists decided that they should be. Most of these practices fall into two categories: misrepresentation and bias.

Dictionaries typically define fraud as deceit, trickery or the perversion of truth. Thus, many of these practices could be considered fraudulent, but seldom are they included in discussions of scientific fraud.

Some individuals have tried to raise concern about these practices [2], but for the most part they are tolerated or treated as standard practice. Here I will describe a number of potentially dubious practices, giving examples in some cases. I do not attempt to rank these practices in terms of seriousness, since it is precisely my point that judgements of ‘seriousness’ result from social processes, not absolute standards.

In the contemporary examples, it is usually impossible to tell the full story due to defamation law [3]. In many cases I will give no names and change certain details to disguise the identity of those involved.

One of the most common misrepresentations in scientific work is the scientific paper itself [4]. It presents a mythical reconstruction of what actually happened. All of what are in retrospect mistaken ideas, badly designed experiments and incorrect calculations are omitted. The paper presents the research as if it had been carefully thought out, planned and executed according to a neat, rigorous process, for example involving testing of a hypothesis. The misrepresentation of the scientific paper is the most formal aspect of the misrepresentation of science as an orderly process based on a clearly defined method [5].

The misrepresentation inherent in the standard scientific paper is not only acceptable — it is virtually impossible to avoid. Journal editors will seldom accept a more ‘realistic’ account of how a research project proceeded. Much of the impact of James Watson’s book about the discovery of the structure of DNA, The Double Helix, derived from its contrast with the antiseptic scientific paper. Watson and Crick’s 1953 paper in Nature, reporting their discovery, was a misrepresentation of scientific practice, but it was the accepted way of talking about science.

Another misrepresentation occurs in the list of publications cited in any scientific paper. The publications cited serve many purposes, but a principal one is supposed to be giving credit to prior work, in particular work which formed the basis of the present contribution. In practice, citations give a very poor picture in this regard. Citations are often included not because they have been read — Erwin Chargaff refers to slabs of bibliographies “wafted in their entirety from one paper to the next” [6] — or had any impact on the research, but because it is useful to have a long list to impress referees or to enhance one’s own work while denigrating competitors or enemies.

Certain types of citations are normally omitted because they do not have a proper status: grant applications, conversations, correspondence, newspaper articles and ‘unscholarly’ publications generally. These sources may have been key contributors towards the research, but they are not cited [7]. Some journals impose styles which make such citations virtually impossible.

Another dubious practice can be called ‘intellectual exploitation’. It occurs when a researcher makes use of work by other people associated with the research, but does not give them proper credit. For example, a wife of a researcher may regularly collect and assemble specimens, write the first draft of a paper, or read the literature and compile the bibliography — and never be acknowledged as a co-author. In addition to wives, other common victims of this treatment are students and research assistants. Many PhD students in science feel obliged to list their supervisor as a co-author of papers, even though the supervisor did little or no work on the project. This practice is another example of misrepresentation. By informal accounts it is more widespread than commonly acknowledged, but is seldom documented [8].

Intellectual exploitation is not only common: in many situations it is required. In scientific papers it is considered inappropriate to acknowledge typists, secretaries, librarians, lab assistants and others not involved in ‘real science’. (In books, these individuals sometimes are mentioned.) By contrast, those in a position of equality or superiority expect generous acknowledgement. The heads of some departments and research labs expect to have their names attached to every paper produced under their aegis, whether or not they had anything directly to do with it [9]. Some would claim such co-authorship is necessary so that they can raise more funds to keep their junior reseachers employed.

Another common misrepresentation of research work is exaggeration of its quality, progress and social importance. This is almost essential for a successful scientific career. A modest and honest grant application stands little chance of success: the applicant, to obtain money, must puff up the quality and importance of previous work and give a highly unrealistic assessment of the likely results of funding future work — or, as is common, request money to carry out research which actually has been completed. Most grant applications are convenient fictions.

The same applies to annual reports, media stories and other material prepared for general distribution. ‘Breakthroughs’ abound. Research relevant to a ‘cure for cancer’ covers the gamut of biological science. The quality of research is never honestly assessed. (When did you last read an annual report reporting mediocre research?) Honesty in research grants, annual reports and media reports stands about as much chance as honesty in advertising, because this sort of (mis)representation of science is, indeed, a form of advertising.

Misrepresentation is also common in the curriculum vitae, the formal record of a scholar’s career. ‘Creative curriculum vitae writing’ is a fine art: minor honours are inflated, administrative duties are exaggerated, major credit is claimed for collaborative research, and every possible publication is listed (perhaps including duplicate conference papers and ‘in press’ papers that have not yet been accepted or even submitted for publication). Most of all, failings are omitted from the vitae. All this is entirely standard. It is only when nonexistent degrees or publications are claimed that anyone even thinks in terms of misrepresentation.

‘Shoddy science’ or ‘sloppy scholarship’ is a way of describing research work that does not measure up to a hypothetical set of ideal standards. ‘Shoddy science’ includes things such as poor experimental design, bungled statistics, incomplete data sheets, improperly tested hypotheses, inaccurate reference to previous work, uncorrected minor mistakes in computer programmes, failure to test alternative hypotheses, and conclusions that do not reflect the body of work. Shoddy science is widespread [10]. Lots of it gets into scientific journals, and much more is rejected. But an occasional rejection is about the only penalty for poor work. More common is the reward of promotion for producing so much of it.

The boundary between ‘shoddy science’ and what is sometimes called fraud is a fuzzy one. No scientist publishes all the raw data. The raw data must be assessed for quality (discrepant data are thrown out as being due to bad runs), and then suitably processed (transformed theoretically, smoothed, reorganised), and then filtered (only some data are selected to be shown) before publication. Appropriately done, this is standard practice. Inappropriately done (usually according to someone else’s assessment), this process can be called cooking, trimming, fiddling, fudging or forging the data.

The available evidence suggests that inappropriate treatment of data is much more common than normally acknowledged. An eminent behavioural scientist, who must remain anonymous, wrote the following:

“I can however assure you that I have had more than one graduate student who has subsequently become eminent and who I know was fudging data. I have also had undergraduate students who have gone on to do their PhD elsewhere and when they went to certain professors reported back to me malpractice that amounted to fudging data (e.g. repeating an experiment ten times until one experiment worked out significant and then publishing just that one without mentioning all the failures). In addition I know of several people in biology and psychology whose results cannot be replicated, who refuse to give access to their raw data and who could not possibly have completed the experiments they claim to have undertaken in the time available. Their immediate colleagues know what is going on but universities tend to protect them because employing fraudulent staff is not good for the image of the university. In a recent case a professor was caught changing figures obtained by a research assistant. All the university did was to reprimand him and tell him that he could never apply for another grant so long as he remained at that university. He is now at another university. I am extremely sorry that the law of libel prevents my being more specific.” [11].

Mathematician Alexandre Grothendiek, a professor at Montpelier University, wrote in a letter declining to receive the Crafoord prize that “… during the past two decades, the ethics of the scientific profession (at least among mathematicians) has declined to such a degree that pure and simple plundering among colleagues (especially at the expense of those who are not in a position to defend themselves) has almost become the rule, and in any case is tolerated by all, even in the most flagrant and iniquitous cases.”[12].

This sort of behaviour is not exactly standard practice, but it is certainly widely tolerated. The cases that receive extensive publicity are, arguably, only the tip of an iceberg [13].

Contrary to popular belief, it is not easy to detect most cases of illegitimate manipulation of data. According to one provocative assessment [14], science is ruled by an oligarchy of mediocrity: in the chaos of fashionable but pointless research done by less-than-competent researchers, cheating can escape unnoticed.

Also tolerated are biased viewpoints, including those linked to powerful vested interests. Many scientists are employed by or receive research funds from companies or government bodies, and both expect and are expected to come up only with results useful to those bodies. Scientists receiving money from chemical companies to study pesticides seldom draw attention to the limitations or dangers of pesticides: they simply do studies within a framework which assumes that using pesticides is the appropriate thing to do. Physicists working on nuclear weapons design do not stray outside their narrow task. Engineers employed by automobile companies do not propose studies looking for safety problems or alternatives to the car [15].

It could be said that the viewpoints of most scientists are not so much biased as limited: they are willing to do narrow research work whose context is set by the powerful patrons of science. The bias comes from the context, not from the conscious intent of the scientist. In any case, this sort of bias is standard practice, or at worst tolerated. Researchers who are funded by the tobacco industry to study the health effects of cigarettes may be frowned upon, but they are not drummed out of science for being corrupt.

The flip side of bias built into the structure of science is suppression of dissent. The few scientists who speak out against dominant interests — such as against pesticides, nuclear power or automobile design — often come under severe attack. They may have their reputations smeared, be demoted, be transferred, have their publications blocked, be dismissed, or be blacklisted [16].

It can be argued that there is bias in all scientific research. Whether bias is seen as a problem depends on what the bias is. Biases that are no threat to powerful interests are treated as standard or tolerated. Biases that do threaten powerful interests are, often enough, attacked with full fury.

In order to put the allegations of fraud into perspective, it is necessary to understand this point that science as it really happens contains a host of potentially dubious practices, many of which are considered standard and many others widely tolerated. In order to understand why, it is useful to look at the dominant interests served by science.

THE POWER STRUCTURE OF SCIENCE

Contemporary science is a large-scale enterprise, heavily funded and highly directed. The dominant players are governments and large corporations, which provide most of the funding for science, and the community of professional scientists themselves, especially the scientific elites.

For example, a large amount of scientific research is devoted to producing and testing new drugs. Partly this is because of direct funding by pharmaceutical companies. But even the studies of other researchers can be affected, because what are seen as ‘important scientific problems’ are partly shaped by drug industry priorities. This increases the degree of scientific interest in epidemiology and brain chemistry. The industry funds some ‘pure research’ in fields of potential interest, knowing that it can reap the benefits of anything useful that turns up. By contrast, some fields languish because they hold no prospects for drug interventions.

The same process applies to research in other areas. The dominant influences are from government and large firms, but there are crumbs for others too [17].

The semi-bureaucratic organisation of scientific research is a crucial factor in this process of shaping scientific goals. A relatively small number of scientists and bureaucrats make the crucial decisions about research: setting up and shutting down research programmes, making key appointments, editing journals, allocating grants, awarding prizes. This group can be called the political scientific elite [18]. They have the dominant influence on priorities within science. More than most other scientists, they have regular interactions with equivalent elites within government and industry, and usually share the same basic concerns. On the other hand, they have an interest in maintaining the autonomy of science, preventing it from becoming solely a servant of external power. They have an interest in maintaining some autonomy for scientists within the general ambit of government and corporate interests [19].

Within this overall power system in which most scientific research is done, the standards of scientific behaviour are continually negotiated. These standards do not derive from some textbook or eminent authority, but are adaptations to the reality of doing science in a particular social and political context.

Several of the common misrepresentations and biases are natural outgrowths of the hierarchies within scientific organisations: misrepresentation in citations, false pictures of research in grant applications, appointments of cronies and exploitation of subordinates. Many of those who rise within the hierarchy do so by claiming an excess of credit for their own contributions; once somewhat up the hierarchy, it is easier to use the power of position to continue the process. It is easy to see why many of these practices are standard: they serve the interests of the more powerful members of the research community. The main opposition comes from those who lose out or prefer to play the game a different way. By and large, these critics are not influential; they have been unable to do more than occasionally voice concern about the practices, which continue unabated.

Sloppy scholarship and minor cheating are dealt with in a slightly different way. To understand the dynamic here, it is important to remember that there are two types of consumers of science: interest groups such as governments and corporations, and other scientists. Trimming and cooking of data is sometimes a problem for both these types of consumers, since the usefulness of the product is jeopardised. Minor cheating is exactly what the name suggests, namely cheating which doesn’t hurt anyone else so badly that they get too upset. Using this same sort of tautological nomenclature, major fraud is just the sort of fraud that gets others sufficiently concerned to take action.

It is almost always other scientists who are most aware of the cheating that goes on. There are conflicting pressures: some colleagues believe in scientific ideals and hate to see them defiled, or may want to stop the cheater from getting ahead on the basis of shoddy work; but most don’t want to undergo the personal confrontation involved in making allegations of fraud. Administrators often are reluctant to raise the matter too widely since that would hurt the reputation of their institution.

In this, science is little different from many other occupations. Take the building trades, for example. Most builders are honest and hard working, taking pride in their work. Some of them, depending on the incentives, take shortcuts. This may be standard or tolerated, so long as it doesn’t put other workers at risk or jeopardise the project as a whole. An electrician who does such shoddy work that other workers are severely inconvenienced or put in danger will not receive further work. Furthermore, if the work is so obviously bad that customers can see the consequences, then that jeopardises the work of other tradespeople. It is to the advantage of builders not to make a big noise about poor work or corruption, but to quietly push out the worst offenders — who are well recognised by other builders — and to tolerate the minor cheating that occurs [20].

Science basically operates the same way. There are internal audiences and external audiences. The preferred way to handle shoddy research is to quietly deal with the serious offenders and to ignore the widespread minor cheating. In such a situation, cheaters do not bring science into public disrepute whereas, ironically, those who blow the whistle on cheaters are perceived as posing a threat to business as usual.

There remains the category of biased viewpoints linked to powerful interest groups, such as pesticides researchers whose views are convenient to chemical companies. This serves rather than threatens the power structure of science, and is seldom seen as a problem at all. It is only when other scientists voice different views that a problem is noticed.

To return to the example of drugs: research that is directly or potentially useful to the pharmaceutical industry is seldom raised by scientists as a dubious practice. (Members of the consumers movement sometimes do this.) But it is rare indeed for anything more to be done than general criticisms. The refusal by some scientists to participate in recombinant DNA research is conspicuous as an exception. In general, there is no material basis, no alternative source of funding, to sustain an alternative conception of scientific practice. Hence, science in support of powerful interests is usually tolerated.

This has been a very general overview of the exercise of power in science. There are many exceptions to the generalities that I have presented. Nevertheless, the overall picture is quite useful in making sense of the usual responses to what I have called potentially dubious practices in science.

CASES

To illustrate the value and limitations of the general framework outlined above, some Australian cases of what is conventionally called fraud in science and academia are described here. There is little point in presenting examples of standard practices such as misrepresentation of research progress, exploitation of subordinates and bias in appointments, since it is seldom expected that anything will be done about them. Rather, the focus is on cases in which there might be some expectation of action, because the behaviours are officially condemned. This does not mean that these are the intrinsically more ‘serious’ cases in any absolute sense since, as argued above, standards of scholarly behaviour reflect the interests tied up in the relevant power structure.

In a science department at an Australian university, an honours student was found to have plagiarised, word-for-word, most of the chapters of his thesis from separate published articles. The thesis was ranked as honours second class, second division on the basis of a small portion known not to be plagiarised. Combined with top quality course work, the student received a second class, first division honours degree. This student went on to obtain a PhD and become a lecturer at the same university, with no apparent hindrance to his career. No action was taken to expose the plagiarism or require resubmission of the thesis.

In an arts department at an Australian university, students found evidence of plagiarism in a book, being used as a text, written by one of their lecturers. The students brought this to the attention of other lecturers, who confirmed a pattern of using portions of the text, style of presentation and references of secondary sources apparently without consulting the originals. Nothing was done due to fear of defamation. The author of the suspect text received a promotion.

At an Australian university, an individual was appointed, over well qualified applicants, to a lectureship. The appointee claimed in his application to have nearly completed a PhD thesis at a prestigious overseas university. But the PhD was never completed; later investigation revealed that only a limited amount of work had been done at that university. The appointee received both the sympathy of colleagues and tenure.

In an arts department at an Australian university, a lecturer confronted his professor with evidence of the professor’s plagiarism. The lecturer was physically threatened by the professor. The university administration, notified of the evidence and action, transferred the lecturer to another department against his will; it did nothing about the allegations about the professor.

These cases are typical of the cases of fraudulent behaviour that never come to public notice. Their most prominent feature is the reluctance of colleagues or administrators to raise the issues in any public forum. Cases that receive considerable publicity illustrate some of the same processes, as the following Australian examples show.

Ron Wild was professor of Sociology at La Trobe University, author of many books and other publications and a prominent figure in the discipline. In 1985 a book of his, An Introduction to Sociological Perspectives, was published by Allen and Unwin. It was not long before several academics noticed that extensive passages from the book were taken, without sufficient acknowledgement, directly from other sources. Publicity about this led Allen and Unwin to withdraw the book, and eventually La Trobe set up an inquiry into the apparent plagiarism. In 1986, Wild resigned and hence the incomplete inquiry was disbanded. Wild soon obtained a high-paying job at Hedland College of Technical and Further Education, in a remote location that many would consider to be academic siberia [21].

Alan Williams was appointed professor of commerce at the University of Newcastle in 1977. About 18 months later, a senior lecturer in the department, Dr. Michael Spautz, raised serious questions about the quality of Williams’ PhD thesis. Later Spautz alleged that the thesis contained extensive plagiarised passages, namely that Williams had quoted but not cited secondary sources, giving the false impression of having consulted the primary sources. Spautz, receiving no response to his allegations, broadcast them more and more widely. The university convened an inquiry into Spautz’s behaviour, and later dismissed him from his tenured position. The allegations into Williams’ thesis were never systematically investigated by the university [22].

William McBride is one of Australia’s best known scientists, widely noted for his discovery of the link between thalidomide and deformed babies. In 1987, Norman Swan of the Australian Broadcasting Commission published allegations that McBride had falsified data in a paper published in the Australian Journal of Biological Sciences, namely changing figures for doses of scopolomine administered to pregnant rabbits and manufacturing data for two nonexistent rabbits. This had occurred in the early 1980s. Two junior researchers under McBride, Phillip Vardy and Jill French, had tried to raise the problems with directors of Foundation 41 where the research was done, but got nowhere and resigned. Seven other junior researchers wrote to Foundation 41’s Research Advisory Committee about the allegations; they were retrenched. The Australian Journal of Biological Sciences did not publish a letter sent by Vardy and French. The case would never have received public attention but due to the persistence of journalist Norman Swan. Another persistent journalist, Bill Nicol, had written a book about McBride, including this case and other information, but for years was unable to obtain publication due to the risk of defamation. Nicol’s book only appeared after Swan’s stories and with Swan’s help [23].

After the public revelations about McBride, Foundation 41 set up an inquiry which found that McBride had engaged in scientific fraud. Yet, some time after the inquiry reported, McBride returned to the Board of the Foundation.

Michael Harvey Briggs built his scientific reputation on research into the effectiveness of contraceptives. He worked in universities in Zambia, the United States and New Zealand, and spent four years in England working for the West German pharmaceutical company Schering Chemicals. In 1976 he joined Deakin University as foundation professor of human biology and dean of science. As a professor and dean, he was one of the university elite. In addition, he attracted sizeable research funding to the university from the pharmaceutical industry, was a consultant to the World Health Organisation and attended numerous overseas scientific conferences each year. Briggs had many supporters at Deakin among both junior scientists and the university elite.

Others were suspicious of him and his work from an early stage, including Deakin professor Mark Wahlqvist, a colleague of Briggs. Prominent Melbourne researchers Bryan Hudson and Henry Burger raised their doubts with Deakin’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Fred Jevons in 1983. Jevons put questions from the anonymous scientists to Briggs and conveyed Briggs’ responses to them; they decided at that stage not to proceed further.

Dr Jim Rossiter also had doubts about Briggs, and he persisted in raising them. Rossiter, a paediatrician and member of Deakin University Council (representing the community), was also chairperson of the university’s Ethics Committee. Rossiter wrote a letter to Briggs querying his method of recruiting women subjects for contraceptive research and questioning his analysis of specimens. Rossiter was not satisfied with Briggs’ reply and, in 1984, filed a formal complaint with Jevons.

When Jevons set up a preliminary committee to decide whether formal charges should be laid, Briggs opposed this and succeeded in obtaining the intervention of the University ‘Visitor’ to halt the preliminary inquiry. In this Briggs had the support of many Deakin staff, the Federation of Australian University Staff Associations and the Chancellor of the University. After Rossiter, joined by Hudson and Burger, made new allegations, a new inquiry was set up. This inquiry was promptly terminated when Briggs resigned [24].

Let me now summarise some of the common threads illustrated by these cases, and offer explanations in terms of my analysis. The first point is the reluctance of institutions to deal with cases of alleged fraud. This is apparent in most of the less publicised cases where, usually, no formal action is taken at all. It seems that formal inquiries have only been instituted under pressure of media attention, as in the Wild, McBride and Briggs cases. Even then, the inquiry may be quickly disbanded on resignation of the individual concerned. All this suggests that the priority is on limiting not fraud but damage to the reputations of the institutions concerned.

The other side of this reluctance to take formal action is the difficulties faced by those alleging fraud [25]. Without the efforts of Dr Jim Rossiter, the case against Briggs might never have been pursued; for his pains, Rossiter received hundreds of threatening phone calls. Phil Vardy, Jill French and the other seven Foundation 41 staff lost jobs because of their attempts to have McBride’s behaviour investigated. Michael Spautz was dismissed as a result of his campaign to expose Alan Williams. In some of the unpublicised cases, individuals obtained advancement on the basis of shoddy work; those passed over in the process obtained no compensation.

That these sorts of experiences are common is attested by Charles McCutchen, a researcher at the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare who has considerable experience with cases of scientific fraud. McCutchen writes that:

“In protesting scientific fraud, the whistleblower soon realizes that he or she will have few allies. The biomedical science establishment has taken the position that fraud is very rare, and will use almost any means to maintain that illusion. Its response is sufficiently savage to make whistleblowing professionally suicidal if the accused is either important or can involve someone important. This means that one cannot in good conscience ask for support, because one has no right to get the career of an innocent third party destroyed.

“The de facto alliance between perpetrators of scientific fraud and the biomedical science establishment is reflected in the response of the scientific journals. I know of only one, Neurology, that has published a direct exchange between accuser and accused. Nature has been ambivalent, and all other journals I know of have either avoided the issue, or, like Science, been captives of the nothing-is-wrong establishment”[26].

These cases demonstrate that the admission of wrongdoing is extremely rare. Ron Wild never admitted to plagiarism; Alan Williams has never publicly responded to Spautz’s allegations; William McBride denied any wrongdoing even after he had been pronounced guilty by an inquiry into his behaviour; Briggs only made admissions when he thought they would not be quoted, and he later denied them. In another case, Oxford University Press published a notice acknowledging that a book published by them, written by Helge Kuhse of Monash University’s Centre for Human Bioethics, required additional citations to prior work by philosopher Sue Uniacke. Yet Kuhse was reported as denying plagiarism [27]. It seems a fair generalisation to say that no one publicly admits to misrepresentation or bias of a serious sort.

It is worth mentioning here that not all allegations of fraud can be sustained. In one case, allegations of plagiarism were used to keep a young statistician from obtaining a job. She had no way of countering the allegations, which were made in a referee’s report [28]. Because there are few formal mechanisms for dealing with such allegations, it is usually the more powerful individuals who win in confrontations. It is much easier to wreck the career of a PhD student than a world-famous scientist.

The focus on fraud can distract attention from other aspects of the dynamics of science. What is interesting here is that a number of the individuals accused of fraud have also been engaged in other ‘potentially dubious practices’ which, however, have not been subject to question. Here I will focus on biased viewpoints linked to the interests of powerful groups.

Briggs was considered a ‘successful’ scientist partly because he was able to obtain large research funding from private industry. In particular, he conveniently found that the contraceptives manufactured by the company that funded his research were more effective than the contraceptives manufactured by competitors. In principle, he could have been accused of scientific bias, or of conflict of interest. Although this may have happened privately, it did not and perhaps could not have formed the basis of a formal complaint against him. Biased viewpoints are normally tolerated: it is standard practice for researchers to be funded by vested interests, and common for the research findings to support those interests. There were critics of Briggs from the time of his appointment at Deakin, but they were unable to challenge him on the basis of his industrial funding. Industrial funding is too common to serve as a strong point of attack.

Nor was anything done about Briggs being a ‘guest author’, namely listed as co-author of publications to which he had contributed little scientifically. Guest authorship is too common to serve well as a point of attack. Similarly, nothing was done about Briggs’ lack of interest in the activities of his research students and other research nominally under his purview. Inadequate supervision or scientific oversight are also too common to serve as effective points of attack. It took the charge of ‘fraud’ — manipulation of data — to bring Briggs down, and even that was a tortuous process.

Like Briggs, McBride obtained extensive funds from companies and often made scientific and public stands convenient to them. He received large funding from the lead industry, and in his research and public statements dismissed the role of lead in birth defects. Again, there is the possible presence of scientific bias and conflict of interest. Again, this never formed the basis of action against McBride. His viewpoints on lead and other substances were tolerated. Only the publicity about fraud was enough to bring him down.

Spautz initially made criticisms about Williams’ thesis that had nothing to do with fraud. Spautz claimed that Williams had confused cause and effect in claiming that owner-managers of small businesses failed because of psychological shortcomings, rather than the psychological problems resulting from the stress of a failing business. Spautz’s sober rebuttals of Williams’ thesis argument were rejected by two journals.

In summary, what I have called ‘potentially dubious practices’ are widespread in science, and indeed it is virtually impossible to survive as a scientist without participating in some of them. Because many of them are considered standard practice or tolerated, they seldom become a focus for concern. My argument is that the most important reason why a practice is tolerated or castigated is its relation to the dominant groups affecting science: government, industry and scientific elites. Raising the issues of misrepresentation of achievement, bias in appointments and biased viewpoints linked to powerful groups threatens one or more of these groups in a systematic way. Hence there is no severe stigma attached to these practices.

Fiddling with scientific data in a major way, on the other hand, is of no particular benefit to any of these groups. It is still risky for an institution to expose this behaviour, because of bad publicity. Nevertheless, most of the blame can be put on individual scientists. It is this process to which I next turn.

FRAUD EXPOSURE AS RITUAL

It is difficult indeed to publicly expose a scientist for fraud, but it sometimes happens, as the Briggs and McBride cases show. These few cases serve as a ritual cleaning of the house of science [29]. In the morality play of storybook science, all are honest except for a few bad apples. When these are exposed, they suffer a severe, yet just, penalty.

The cases of Briggs and McBride did indeed lead to an outpouring of denunciations of fraud in science. The inquiries into their actions, however belated, formalised the process. The message was that the erring scientists had been exposed and penalised, that the system of quality control worked (eventually), and that other scientists were in the clear. The inquiry into the work of Briggs’ collaborators served to make this quite explicit: only Briggs was at fault, and the others should be excluded from the taint. $120,000 was provided by Deakin to help their research recover from the episode.

Scientists can be quite righteous about honesty in their profession. They typically claim that fraud is very rare, much less common than in other occupations. This belief is made possible initially by the definition of corrupt behaviour, limiting it to particular extreme cases of misrepresentation such as blatant and detectable altering or manufacturing of data. Such behaviour is defined as terrible and punishable. It is conveniently defined as being quite distinct from the wide range of other misrepresentations and biases that pervade scientific practice.

The focus on a few individual violators serves two important purposes. First, it divides the scientific community into the guilty and the innocent by heaping large amounts of contempt on the few singled out as violators. In this way it binds together the majority of members of the community, reaffirming their essential virtue. Second, it isolates a few behaviours as corrupt, and implicitly stamps others as blameless. In this way the interests of corporate and government patrons of science, and of scientific elites themselves, are less likely to come under attack. They benefit from the perception that corruption has to do with what is called ‘scientific fraud’ and not with obvious misrepresentations and biases which serve their interests.

Briggs would have maintained his successful career had he continued to do research benefiting his pharmaceutical company patron. His weakness was not service to a vested interest or even a cavalier attitude to duties expected of a dean of science, but in failing to follow some of the technical niceties in his research. Of course, one of the prime reasons for fraud is to obtain results that are convenient for a preconceived result, which is often tied to a vested interest such as a corporate patron [30]. Most scientists realise that doing research tied to the interests of particular groups causes no problems. Briggs’ failure was to not back up his bias with appropriately careful scientific work.

The usual remedies proposed for scientific fraud are codes of ethics and imposition of penalties for violators. From the perspective presented here, these approaches are largely useless, because they focus only on a narrow subset of problems with scientific practice and leave unchanged the power structures which are centrally important in causing the problems. Furthermore, supposed crackdowns on fraud may have undesirable consequences, such as slowing or inhibiting the publication of unorthodox ideas, since unwelcome papers can be given extra scrutiny under the guise of ensuring ‘quality control’ [31].

Structural changes that would affect the level of misrepresentation and bias in science include reducing the power of scientific elites, untying the link between quantity of publication and career advancement and reducing the impact of government and industry funding on science. Specific examples include flat salary structures and anonymous publication. In this paper, it is impossible to deal with the ramifications of such drastic changes, not to mention strategies to bring them about. Suffice it to say that scientific fraud, whether defined as usual in narrow terms or broadly conceived as a range of types of misrepresentation and bias, cannot be seriously affected by tinkering with a few policies. Fraud is an integral part of the way science is organised today. It is safe to predict that official concern about fraud will continue to be triggered mainly by bad publicity rather than by fearless and dispassionate investigations into systemic problems in the practice of science.

Footnotes

1. H. M. Collins, Changing Order: Replication and Induction in Scientific Practice, Sage, London, 1985; Karin D. Knorr-Cetina and Michael Mulkay (eds.), Science Observed: Perspectives on the Social Study of Science, Sage, London, 1983; Bruno Latour and Steven Woolgar, Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts, Sage, London, 1979.

2. C. M. Ann Baker and Clyde Manwell, ‘Honesty in science: a partial test of a sociobiological model of the social structure of science’, Search, 12, 1981, pp. 151-160; Beth Savan, Science under Siege: The Myth of Objectivity in Scientific Research, CBC Enterprises, Montreal, 1988.

3. Robert Pullan, Guilty Secrets: Free Speech in Australia, Methuen Australia, Sydney, 1984.

4. P. B. Medawar, ‘Is the scientific paper fraudulent? Yes; it misrepresents scientific thought’, Saturday Review, 1 August 1964, pp. 42-43.

5. John A. Schuster and Richard R. Yeo (eds.), The Politics and Rhetoric of Scientific Method: Historical Studies, Reidel, Dordrecht, 1986.

6. Erwin Chargaff, ‘Triviality in science: a brief meditation on fashions’, Perspectives on Biology and Medicine, 19, 1976, 324-333, quoted and cited in Baker and Manwell, op. cit.

7. Michael H. MacRoberts and Barbara R. MacRoberts, ‘Problems of citation analysis: a critical review’, Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 40, 1989, pp. 342-349.

8. Brian Martin, ‘Academic exploitation’, in Brian Martin, C. M. Ann Baker, Clyde Manwell and Cedric Pugh (eds.), Intellectual Suppression: Australian Case Histories, Analysis and Responses, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1986, pp. 59-62.

9. Richard J. Simonsen, ‘Multiple authors–an ethical dilemma’, Quintessence International, 21, 1990, p. 767; Walter W. Stewart and Ned Feder, ‘The integrity of the scientific literature’, Nature, 325, 1987, pp. 207-214.

10. Stewart and Feder, op. cit.

11. Anonymous, letter to Clyde Manwell, 2 August 1989.

12. Alexandre Grothendiek, ‘Crafoord prize turned down’, Science for the People, 20, November-December 1988, pp. 3-4.

13. William Broad and Nicholas Wade, Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982; Alexander Kohn, False Prophets, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1986.

14. J. Klein, ‘Hegemony of mediocrity in contemporary sciences, particularly in immunology’, Lymphology, 18, 1985, pp. 122-131.

15. Phillip M. Boffey, The Brain Bank of America: An Inquiry into the Politics of Science, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1975; Samuel S. Epstein, The Politics of Cancer, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1978; Joel Primack and Frank von Hippel, Advice and Dissent: Scientists in the Political Arena, Basic Books, New York, 1974.

16. Myron Peretz Glazer and Penina Migdal Glazer, The Whistleblowers: Exposing Corruption in Government and Industry, Basic Books, New York, 1989; Martin et al., op. cit.; Ralph Nader, Peter J. Petkas and Kate Blackwell (eds.), Whistle Blowing: The Report of the Conference on Professional Responsibility, Grossman, New York, 1972.

17. David Dickson, The New Politics of Science, Pantheon, New York, 1984.

18. Brian Martin, ‘The scientific straightjacket’, The Ecologist, 11, January-February 1981, pp. 33-43.

19. Norbert Elias, Herminio Martins and Richard Whitley (eds.), Scientific Establishments and Hierarchies, Reidel, Dordrecht, 1982; Michael Mulkay, ‘The mediating role of the scientific elite’, Social Studies of Science, 6, 1976, pp. 445-470.

20. Julius A. Roth, Mistakes at Work, Julius A. Roth, Davis, 1991.

21. Jane Howard, ‘Dr. Ronald Wild takes college job in far northwest’, Australian, 16 July 1986, p. 13; Anthony MacAdam, ‘The professor is accused of cribbing’, Bulletin, 1 October 1985, pp. 32-33.

22. Brian Martin, ‘Disruption and due process: the dismissal of Dr. Spautz from the University of Newcastle’, Vestes, 26, 1, 1983, pp. 3-9; Brian Martin, ‘Plagiarism and responsibility’, Journal of Tertiary Educational Administration, 6, 1984, pp. 183-190.

23. Bill Nicol, McBride: Behind the Myth, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney, 1989.

24. Christopher Dawson, ‘Briggs: unanswered questions’, Australian, 1 April 1987, p. 14; Deborah Smith, ‘Scandal in academe’, National Times, 25-31 October 1985, pp. 3-4, 26-27; Terry Stokes, ‘The Briggs Enquiry’, Search, 20, March-April 1989, pp. 38-40.

25. Bruce W. Hollis, ‘I turned in my mentor’, The Scientist, 1, 14 December 1987, pp. 11-12; Jerome Jacobstein, ‘I am not optimistic’, ibid.; Robert L. Sprague, ‘I trusted the research system’, ibid.

26. Charles W. McCutchen, letter to Brian Martin, 12 December 1989.

27. ‘Bad manners? The case of Helga Kuhse’, Quadrant, 34, October 1990, pp. 65-69.

28. Martin, 1984, op. cit.

29. Randall Collins, ‘The normalcy of crime’, chapter 4 in Sociological Insight: An Introduction to Nonobvious Sociology, Oxford University Press, New York, 1982.

30. Epstein, op. cit.; Phillip Knightley, Harold Evans, Elaine Potter and Marjorie Wallace, Suffer the Children: The Story of Thalidomide, Andre Deutsch, London, 1979; Savan, op. cit.; R. Jeffrey Smith, ‘Creative penmanship in animal testing prompts FDA controls’, Science, 198, 1977, pp. 1227-1229; Nicholas Wade, ‘Physicians who falsify drug data’, Science, 180, 1973, p. 1038.

31. Malcolm Atkinson, unpublished paper. [Subsequently published in revised form as ‘Regulation of science by “peer review”,’ Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, 25, 1994, pp. 147-158.]

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e.Petition Farmers Smarter Than Quack PhD M.S. Swaminathan

Posted by egovindia on August 4, 2006

e.Petition To

The President of India

July 13, 2006

 

Petitioner:

Ravinder Singh, WIPO Awarded Inventor and Engineer, New Delhi-110016

 

Respondents:

The Cabinet Secretary, Patel Bhawan, New Delhi-110001,

The Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Krishi Bhawan, 110001.

 

Subject;

Illiterate Farmers Wiser Than Quack PhD M.S. Swaminathan,

National Disgrace for 50 Years

 

Summary;

My late illiterate Grand Father, 25 years his senior, was much more wiser and farming expert than Quack PhD M.S. Swaminathan. Swaminathan had the dubious distinction of promoting and supporting world’s most eccentric, unviable and unfeasible Ganga- Cauvery Link that may have cost $150b, enough to bankrupt Tamil Nadu and even after wasting colossal resources very little Ganga water would have reached Cauvery basin.

 

Quack PhD MS Swaminathan also promoted wasteful irrigation projects like Indira Gandhi Canal that has wastefully drained 500 maf of Indus Water in heart of Thar Desert that has cooled the desert and weakened the monsoon thereby impacting and threatening agriculture in India. Over 30 large dams are proposed in Narmada basin, more that 10 largest of them already built that contribute very little to irrigation or food production.

 

He was directly responsible for identifying least productive farming zones for high cost canal irrigation. Quality of seeds continues to be substandard and even spurious seeds, pesticides and fertilizers are sold to farmers. He did little and failed though member and chair of so many committees and commissions. Credit to farmers, harvesting, storage, transporting and distribution system continues to be extremely inadequate and substandard and moneylenders forcibly take away farmers crops when the prices are lowest and earn hefty profits.

 

Small farmers are much wiser and intelligent than Quack PhD MS Swaminathan. To overcome exploitation by middlemen who jack up commodity prices many fold within days of arriving in the market, they grow so many crops of average yield than few specialized crops for optimum yields.

 

India imported 18,000 tons of Mexican wheat seeds in 1966 as he rose in ranks to head IARI as its director. Imports of such a huge quantity of seeds indicates total failure IARI efforts but he continues to enjoy top ranks 40 years hence even as per capita food availability has declined to below independence level and India ranks on top in hunger and lowest in calorie and nutritional intake in the world.

 

He caused extreme embarrassment to India in Conned claims that wheat variety developed by him has more protein than milk and earned international rebuke.

 

 

Details;

 

1.)  It is a fact that my late grand father, 25 years senior, was much wiser and knowledgeable than Quack PhD MS Swaminathan. When I was 5 years old in 1960, he introduced me to farming, particularly irrigation. I asked him questions and he answered them and justified his planning.

 

Ø      Why we have share in four Persian wheel wells* on four sides of 14 acre plot than one in the center? Answer; Yield of the wells is sufficient for 2 acres in summers only. Wells dries up after few hours of use in a day. Water is lost in channel in reaching the distant part of the plot. (*100% share in one, 50% in two and 30% in fourth)

 

Ø      Why we have only 2 acres under crops mainly fodder and vegetables? Answer; May and June are very hot and dry months Persian wheel can irrigate only 2 acres. The most fertile section and nearest to the fully owned Persian wheel was most suitable.

 

Something I learnt at age 5, Quack MS Swaminathan doesn’t know in 81 years. He was Co-conspirator in Ganga Cauvery Link project, supported Garland Canal Project and River Link Loot Program.

 

Quack PhD MS Swaminathan is also responsible selecting least fertile or unfertile lands over a thousand kilometers from Dam source in the case of Indira Gandhi Canal and now Narmada canal so most of the water is lost on way and produce negligible food.

 

Ganga waters could be utilized in Ganga Basin itself to produce 30 million tons of food required in South than 50 billion tons of water in a $150b Ganga Cauveri link, most to be lost on way to leakages, breaches and seepages.

 

2.)  My grand father died in 1991. I was assisting my father in managing the farm. After a year of studying agriculture in Doaba area, reading books and participating in Krishi Melas, meeting few leading plant breeders, including Basmati breeder, I confidently asked small farmers;

 

Ø      Why do you grow so many crops getting average crop yields, when you can more than double yield specializing in 2-3 crops using better seeds etc?

 

Answer; we are happy growing 10 crops or more even if yield is half. We earn only Rs.1 per kg for Potato, Rs.2 for most vegetables but if we have to buy it from the market it cost Rs.5 to Rs.25 per kg. We earn only Rs.2.5 per kg for wheat but if we buy it from the market we pay Rs.4 to Rs.5 per kg. In addition the farm residue is used as cattle feed.

 

Ø      THIS EXPLAINS WHY INDIA IS ON TOP OF HUNGRY & STARVING LIST AND LOWEST ON CALORIE & NUTRITION INTAKE. PER CAPITA FOOD INTAKE IS BELOW PARTITION LEVEL.

 

3.)  Surely Quack PhD MS Swaminathan is an absolute idiot. Obviously all the dubious awards he was showered with ought to go to my grand father and a small farmer.

 

4.)  It is shocking this dubious character accepted to Chair perhaps 50th committee National Commission on Farmers and took 18 months to come out with “Draft Report” which considering the experience he has in two days.

 

http://krishakayog.gov.in/ncpdraft.pdf

http://krishakayog.gov.in/tor.pdf

 

“4.1 Definition

For the purpose of this Policy, the term “farmers” will include landless agricultural labourers, sharecroppers, tenants, small, marginal and sub-marginal cultivators, farmers with larger holdings, fishers, dairy, sheep, poultry and other farmers involved in animal husbandry, pastoralists, plantation workers, as well as those rural and tribal families engaged in a wide variety of farming related occupations such as sericulture and vermiculture.” Draft National Policy For Farmers, April13, 2006

 

Firstly he included in definition every one producing food as farmer, though Cultivators, poultry, fishery, plantations are entirely different practices that have completely different practices and problems. Cultivators form over 90% of the farmers clubbing everything with it was an “Eccentric Idea.” Canal / tube-well irrigation, seeds, harvesting, procurement, storage, transportation and distribution of grains exclusively relate to cultivars than plantations, fisheries etc.

 

Quack M.S. Swaminathan

 

5.)  Instead of removing commission agents, middlemen and streamlining marketing, his idea of Cooperative Farming, Group Farming, Small Holders Estates, Contract Farming, Corporate Farming, Company Farming, Government State Farms etc is an attempt to “Eradicate Farmers And Turn Them In To Labor.” So the brain behinds Reliance farming plans is this crook Swaminathan.

 

Ø      His recommendations favor large industry but this quack doesn’t know that small farmers, targeted group shall reject the programs.

 

6.)  It is important to note that potential yields of local cultivars were much more even at the time of independence than average crop yields today. The missing factors all these years were Irrigation, Farm Credit, Inadequate Support Price, Poor Storage and Handling and Middlemen Exploitation. THERE IS NO SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT IN THESE 60 YEARS though he was Chairing and members of over 100 committees or commissions. 

 

7.)  He was among the prime conspirators to propose “Ganga Cauvery Link To Cost $150b” which has been repeatedly thrust on India in different forms. Food can be produced in Ganga Basin itself using 50 billion tons of water efficiently and exporting 30 MT of food to South.

 

Ø      He is so stupid that he perhaps never knew that $150b or of the cost of Ganga Cauvery Link Canal will be charged to TN or other partners that shall make TN bankrupt. Eventually little or no water may reach Cauvery due to losses on way.

 

8.)  Wasteful Dams on Narmada, release of 500 maf water in Thar Desert, destroying desert eco system affecting Monsoon have severely impacted agriculture are indicators of GROSS INCOMPETENCE. He never offered any dissent all these 50 years.

 

http://www.answers.com/topic/m-s-swaminathan

 

9.)  In the above link you have the manipulative skills of Quack PhD holder, getting rewarded for non performance.

 

The article following this e.petition explains how he manipulated Scientific Papers etc.

 

10.) But the crucial observation is that “India Imported 18,000 Tons of Mexican Wheat Seed” is an illustration that IARI seeds program was a total failure. And he completely failed from 1952-67 period during which time he climbed to become “Director” of IARI rewarded for all the failures. Indian seeds program lagged so much behind Mexico that there was perhaps “No Improvement” in Swaminathan tenure up to 1967.

 

11.)  Looking at his continuous Chairing of several committees since 1982 from age 57 onwards indicates his gross failure and getting rewarded for non performance.

 

12.) Is it not a shame that India could not find a replacement of M.S. Swaminathan “Morris Oxford” – Dented and Rusty Ambassador of Indian Agriculture in 50 years?

 

Remedy:-  Compulsorily Retire Him From All Committees.

 

Ravinder Singh

 

http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4215

http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/92prom.html

 

In an article he was asked to provide for the report Swaminathan tells his readers how, ‘Genes have been transferred by scientists in India from Amaranthus to potato for improving protein quality and quantity’. This information is marked out in bold type. In fact, however, this GM potato has been shown to be little more than hype. Even Prof. C Kameswara Rao – a keen biotech supporter – has pointed out that it is ‘unlikely to see the light of the day in this decade’. According to Prof Rao, ‘I noticed that the potato used to make wafer chips in England has 6.0 to 6.5 per cent of protein, while that of the GE potato is only about 2.5 per cent. I do not understand how this dismal product could generate so much euphoria…’ (‘Dismal’ GM potato a decade away)

 

Just how credible Swaminathan and his promotion of a locally aware biotechnology really are remains open to question. His track record remains controversial and some, like Dr Claude Alvares of the Goa Institute, accuse him of being a shrewd political operator whose real strength lies in knowing how to get things done and how to adapt his rhetoric to create a veneer of public acceptability:

 

FOCUS ON ASIA

Here’s a profile of the Godfather of India’s Green Revolution, M.S. Swaminathan who’s a key speaker at the 3-day International Conference which opens in New Delhi, India, today (Tuesday): “Agricultural Biotechnology: Ushering in the Second Green Revolution”.

http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4179

Swaminathan, India’s premier Green Revolution scientist, has a talent for dressing up the industry lobby’s agenda in the rhetoric of village India, women’s empowerment, eco-tech etc., creating a facade of an unthreatening, ecologically and socially sensitive biotechnology ‘domesticated’ to local conditions.

But how credible Swaminathan and his promotion of a locally aware biotechnology really are remains open to question. His track record remains controversial. There are accusations of scientific fraud as well as scandals involving the suicide of scientists at the institute from which he launched the Green Revolution. But these have been buried beneath a plethora of awards and honours.

The real importance of Swaminathan’s record is that it points to the errors India will repeat if it embarks on a Swaminathan-led “Second Green Revolution”.

M.S. Swaminathan – a GM WATCH profile

(for all the links: http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=291&page=S )

Since 1988 the plant geneticist Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan has headed his own M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai (Madras) India. The Foundation sees GM crops, and biotechnology in general, not only as having immense potential but as ‘the only way we can face the challenges of the future’. It also sees India as needing to ‘move forward vigorously in mobilising the power of biotechnology’ in order not to lag behind China and more developed countries. (The Chennai Declaration: Bridging the Genetic Divide)

As M.S. Swaminathan is considered the Godfather of the Green Revolution in India, his promotion of GM crops is inevitably projected as an ushering in of a second Green Revolution. Indeed, that is the title of an International Conference in August 2004 in New Delhi, organised by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the biotech industry-backed International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application (ISAAA).

The conference, whose speakers include Swaminathan, has been organized to ‘deliberate on the recommendations of the Task Force on Application of Biotechnology in Agriculture’. This Task Force, headed by Swaminathan, had been charged by the Indian Government with the task of making recommendations on how to reform India’s biosafety system.

The Task Force’s recommendations have proved controversial. Greenpeace India accused it of seeking ‘to strip away regulation of biotechnology, rather than improve it’ while P.V. Satheesh of the Deccan Development Society had earlier warned that the real agenda behind the reforms was to introduce ‘fast track approval’. (Swaminathan Panel Recommendations on Biotechnology Flawed and Dangerous)

Although a GM proponent, Swaminathan does not present as a pugnacious propagandist for the technology in the style of Norman Borlaug, that other Green Revolution scientist. For instance, the alternative title of Swaminathan’s Foundation is ‘The Centre for Research on Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development’. And traditional organic farming is researched there alongside genetic engineering which Swaminathan argues can assist organic agriculture. The Foundation is also at great pains to emphasise the need for technology development and dissemination to be ‘pro-nature, pro-poor, and pro-women’ in orientation. Similarly, Swaminathan and the Foundation promote the idea of ‘biovillages’, which combine IT and biotechnology with the rhetoric of village india, women’s empowerment, etc.

This more sophisticated stance, together with Swaminathan’s international status as the scientist-hero who brought about India’s Green Revolution, has meant that biotechnology supporters have found him an attractive figure to involve in the promotion of GM crops both in India and beyond. In UNDP’s highly controversial Human Development Report 2001, for instance, the Lead Author, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, in seeking to justify the report’s support for GM crops quotes Swaminathan. Swaminathan, in turn, quotes Ghandi on the need to remember the poor.

In an article he was asked to provide for the report Swaminathan tells his readers how, ‘Genes have been transferred by scientists in India from Amaranthus to potato for improving protein quality and quantity’. This information is marked out in bold type. In fact, however, this GM potato has been shown to be little more than hype. Even Prof. C Kameswara Rao – a keen biotech supporter – has pointed out that it is ‘unlikely to see the light of the day in this decade’. According to Prof Rao, ‘I noticed that the potato used to make wafer chips in England has 6.0 to 6.5 per cent of protein, while that of the GE potato is only about 2.5 per cent. I do not understand how this dismal product could generate so much euphoria…’ (‘Dismal’ GM potato a decade away)

The answer to Rao’s question is simple. The fact that the GM potato is a locally-led and philanthropically directed project gives it the hallmarks of acceptability. This makes it a perfect poster child for promoting the technology. In a similar way, Swaminathan provides an acceptable face for GM crops in the Third World, creating a facade of an unthreatening, ecologically and socially sensitive biotechnology ‘domesticated’ to local conditions.

Just how credible Swaminathan and his promotion of a locally aware biotechnology really are remains open to question. His track record remains controversial and some, like Dr Claude Alvares of the Goa Institute, accuse him of being a shrewd political operator whose real strength lies in knowing how to get things done and how to adapt his rhetoric to create a veneer of public acceptability:

‘At a Gandhi seminar, he will speak on Gandhi. At a meeting in Madras, on the necessity for combine harvesters. At another meeting on appropriate technology, he will plump for organic manure. At a talk in London, he will speak on the necessity of chemical fertilizers. He will label slum dwellers “ecological refugees”, and advertise his career as a quest for “imparting an ecological basis to productivity improvement”. This, after presiding over, and indiscriminately furthering, one of the ecologically most devastating technologies of modern times – the [High Yielding Varieties] package of the Green Revolution.’

While Swaminathan is feted around the globe as the hero of India’s Green Revolution, the manner in which he achieved such prominence is much less well known. He did so, charges Alvares, in a way that has a parallel in India claiming credit for its conquest of space when it was riding piggyback on Soviet science and technology. Swaminathan imported borrowed science evolved in Mexico by Norman Borlang and American interests. In taking India down this path, his critics say, he neglected high yielding indigenous varieties adapted to local conditions in favour of chemical and irrigation dependent varieties which have with time had adverse effects on both productivity and the environment, often with catastrophic consequences for India’s millions of small and marginal farmers.

 

It is also alleged that Swaminathan’s rise to prominence went hand in hand with the suppression of the work of Indian scientists who were making a case within the agricultural mainstream for less input-intensive farming. One of these was Dr R.H. Richharia who worked all his life to develop indigenous rice species and whose guiding principle was, ‘Your work is only valuable if it helps the poor farmers’. Richaria almost single-handedly put together a germplasm collection of over 20,000 rice varieties. Currently in the possession of the Indira Gandhi Agricultural University in Chhattisgarh; this collection was at the centre of a major controversy when Syngenta attempted to take it over under the guise of collaborative research, a move only thwarted by civil society pressures. Dr Richaria himself sees Swaminathan and his backers as being linked to both his removal from his post at the Central Rice Research Institute and attempts to gain control over his germplasm collection. Of the latter he says, ‘He was behind it all, because he held all the power… He was the all in all.’ (Crushed but not defeated)

Perhaps most disturbingly, Swaminathan has been censured for making misleading scientific claims and has been linked to scandals involving the suicide of scientists at the institute from which he launched the Green Revolution. However, even these scandals, as we shall see, have had no serious adverse impact on Swaminathan’s career.

He is the recipient of almost every conceivable award – national and international. He has also been India’s Secretary for Agriculture (1980-81), the Director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (1966-72), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (1972-80) and the International Rice Research Institute (1982-88), the Independent Chairman of the FAO Council (1981-85), and the President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1984-90).

Swaminathan was born in India in 1925 in what is now the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He almost became a police officer, but a change of career path led to a Ph.d in genetics from Cambridge in 1952. By 1966, Swaminathan was Director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi. With help from the Rockefeller Foundation, he started importing large quantities of cross-bred wheat seed developed by Norman Borlaug in Mexico. Swaminathan disseminated these plants, which were far more tolerant of chemical fertilisers, in the Punjab. He would later marry this plant to an Indian variety. ‘Our history,’ he says, ‘changed from that time.’

Swaminathan’s apparent scientific successes were first acknowledged in 1971 with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. This award set the precedent for a plethora of awards and honours in the years to come, including over 40 honorary doctorates from universities around the world and the World Food Prize in 1987.

As well as achieving a rapid dissemination of Norman Borlang’s dwarf strains of Mexican wheat, Swaminathan claimed to have developed a new wheat (Sharbati Sonora) by subjecting the Mexican parent lines of the Sonora variety to radiation. At a popular lecture in Delhi in 1967, Swaminathan claimed that Sharbati Sonora contained as much protein and lysine as milk. Dr. Claude Alvares takes up the story:

‘In three subsequent papers he continued to claim a high lysine content. In 1967, Dr Y.P. Gupta, an Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) scientist, disputed the claim and said that the figures had been manipulated. A number of researchers from abroad also stated that the lysine content of Swaminathan’s wheat and that of the Mexican wheat did not differ in any significant content. Finally the Central International de Mejoramiento de Maizy Trigo (CIMMYT) itself reported in 1969 that there was no significant difference between Sonora and Sharbati Sonora.

Yet nine months after the CIMMYT report appeared, Swaminathan once again submitted the 1967 Food Industries paper to a short lived journal called Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, in which he again claimed a value of two and half times the normal lysine value for Sharbati Sonora. Eight months later [in 1971], he was given the Magsaysay Award, for having “developed a wheat variety containing three per cent lysine”, and which, the Magsaysay Foundation claimed, “was now alleviating the deficiency of essential amino acids in the Indian diet so harmful particularly to brain development in young children.” Every word of the citation was false… The award, however, was instrumental in Swaminathan being made the director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)’.

What brought the lysine scandal to public notice was the suicide in May 1972 of Dr. Vinod Shah, an agronomist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. The IARI was where Swaminathan had launched his Green Revolution.

According to Bharat Dogra, a very senior and respected journalist in India who has researched Swaminathan and contemporary agricultural scientists for many years, Dr Shah had been repelled by the ‘glaring irregularities, victimisation, nepotism, bogus research, sycophancy’ he had found at the IARI. (Bharat Dogra, The Life and Work of Dr R.H. Richaria, p.99) Dr Shah’s death was not the only suicide by a scientist at the institute but ‘it attracted more attention partly because of his youth and partly because of the suicide note left behind by him in which he clearly explained the dishonesty and irregularities… which had disillusioned him so much.’ (Bharat Dogra, p.100)

It also emerged that Dr Shah had met with Swaminathan, the IARI’s Director, some time before he committed suicide. Following that meeting, he had stopped taking any food. His suicide note was addressed personally to Dr Swaminathan. It alleged, ‘A lot of unscientific data are collected to fit in your line of thinking.’ It also said, ‘A person with ideas and constructive scientific criticism is always victimised’. (Bharat Dogra, p.107)

An Achievement Audit Committee Report had already been critical of the ‘pompous or exaggerated statements made in IARI documents’ (Bharat Dogra, p.101) as well as of the generally poor quality of research at Swaminathan’s Institute – research which failed to meet the claims made for it. And the lysine content of Swaminathanís wheat was not the only case of ‘blatantly dishonest research’ to come to light in the enquiries made following the allegations contained in Dr Shah’s suicide note. (Bharat Dogra, p.102)

A pulse variety known as Baisaki Moong was claimed to have achieved very high yields in IARI research in the late 60s and early 70s. However, enquiries showed that in trials around the country its performance had been nowhere near as good. In Punjab and Delhi, for instance, ‘the yields were only about half of those claimed to have been obtained in the IARI experiemnts’  (Bharat Dogra, p.102).

Claims relating to a super-nutritious maize developed at IARI also ‘became a major scientific scandal’. Initially the research had been credited with having developed ‘a new strain of maize with the protein content doubled and having nutritious value like milk’ It was even claimed that mothers were reporting that children fed on this maize were less irritable than milk-fed babies. ‘Subsequent experience revealed all such claims to be figments of imagination’. (Bharat Dogra, p.103)

The most serious accusations had come from Dr Y.P. Gupta of the Bio-Chemistry Division of the IARI. Gupta had worked on the lysine content of various wheat varieties and contested Swaminathan’s published data on the protein and lysine content of Sharbati Sonora from an early stage. Gupta specifically alleged that the figure for Sharbati Sonora’s parent plant had been deliberately reduced in a half-yearly report in order to make Sharbati Sonora appear in a more favourable light.

After the circumstances surrounding Dr Shah’s suicide had caused uproar in the Indian Parliament, the government had felt compelled to appoint an enquiry committee headed by the late Dr P.B. Gajendragadkar, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court. Dr Alvares takes up the story:

‘The committee examined the charge of unjustified claims and ruled against Swaminathan… In 1974, the New Scientist published a detailed report on M S Swaminathan’s lysine falsehoods. Swaminathan survived the attack. Immediately after the Emergency, it was the Statesman in a detailed report dated May 17, 1977, that re-opened the entire debate. It was only on this occasion, for the first time since 1967, that Swaminathan admitted that the data concerning lysine was incorrect. Six years had passed since he had won the Magsaysay Award, which, if the citation was totally wrong, was improperly conferred.’

Swaminathan tried to put down the scandal to an ‘analytical error’ which he said was the fault of one of his subordinates but, Dr Alvares argues, there are other indicators that support a lack of ethics:

‘One is his harassment of all those scientists who had exposed his claims on lysine in the first place. Within a year, for example, of questioning the data in 1967, Dr Y.P. Gupta’s students were taken away from him, he was denied promotions, his junior was selected to become his head, and his application for a Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) assignment was held back by the IARI till [after] the due date.’
 

It was only 15 years later that the Supreme Court of India was able to vindicate Y.P. Gupta. Dr Gupta, the court ruled, ‘has been the victim of unfair treatment’ and the court went on to describe the attitude of his employer as ‘unethical’. It also termed the action of the institute’s academic council, chaired by Swaminathan, as ‘callous’, ‘heartless’, and ‘shocking’. (The Great Gene Robbery)

However, none of this stopped Swaminathan becoming chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet (SACC). Then in 1982 he left India for the highly paid post of Director General of the Rockefeller- Foundation assisted International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based at Los Banos in the Philippines. After seven years with IRRI, Swaminathan returned to India to devote his efforts to his M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).

The Foundation is now at the centre of Swaminathan’s promotion of India’s second Green Revolution. Its conferences have provided platforms for the industry. In 2004 two events were organised at Chennai to commemorate ‘the occasion of the International Year of Rice 2004’: a National Colloquium on Molecular Breeding and Shaping the Future of Rice, and a Forum on Biotechnology and the future of rice. Both events were dominated by panelists who favored the introduction of the GM seeds, like Golden Rice Network Coordinator and former Monsanto employee, Gerard Barry and William James Peacock of CSIRO. (GM supporters confronted in India)

An MSSRF event had also provided Gerard Barry with a PR platform four years earlier to promote Monsanto’s provision of royalty-free licenses for the development of ‘golden rice’, as well as the corporation’s willingness to open its rice-genome sequence database to researchers around the world. GM lobbyist C.S. Prakash was another speaker on that occasion. (Gene revolution may not feed all)

Critics like the New Delhi-based food and trade policy analyst, Devinder Sharma complain that the right lessons have not yet been learned from Swaminathan’s first Green Revolution before the second is being promoted. The Indian scientist and environmentalist, Vandana Shiva points out that the Green Revolution:

‘has led to reduced genetic diversity, increased vulnerability to pests, soil erosion, water shortages, reduced soil fertility, micronutrient deficiencies, soil contamination, reduced availability of nutritious food crops for the local population, the displacement of vast numbers of small farmers from their land, rural impoverishment and increased tensions and conflicts. The beneficiaries have been the agrochemical industry, large petrochemical companies, manufacturers of agricultural machinery, dam builders and large landowners.’ (The Green Revolution in the Punjab)

And there have been high human costs from forcing the Green Revolution’s industrial farming model onto small and marginal farmers. Writing in response to the news in summer 2004 that many hundreds of poor farmers had once again taken their own lives, often by drinking pesticides, Devinder Sharma noted, ‘the tragedy is that the human cost is entirely being borne by the farmers’.

The greatest irony, writes Sharma, is that ‘those who created the problem in the first instance are the ones who are being asked to provide the solutions.’ (Farm Genocide: The Killing Fields of the Green Revolution)

Posted in Swaminathan, M. S. | 4 Comments »

Father of Poverty, Hunger in India – Quack M. S. Swaminathan

Posted by egovindia on August 4, 2006

Father of Poverty, Hunger in India – Quack M. S. Swaminathan

 

Friends,

After going through the farm draft policy I am certain that GOI has hired a crook and manipulator again to head the NCF who has failed India repeatedly and is largely responsible for wide spread poverty and hunger in India. It required this crook 18 months in compiling draft document which is not more than 2 days job, both the draft and term of reference are given here.

 

http://krishakayog.gov.in/ncpdraft.pdf

http://krishakayog.gov.in/tor.pdf

 

“4.1 Definition

For the purpose of this Policy, the term “farmers” will include landless agricultural labourers, sharecroppers, tenants, small, marginal and sub-marginal cultivators, farmers with larger holdings, fishers, dairy, sheep, poultry and other farmers involved in animal husbandry, pastoralists, plantation workers, as well as those rural and tribal families engaged in a wide variety of farming related occupations such as sericulture and vermiculture.” Draft National Policy For Farmers, April13, 2006

 

Firstly he included in definition every one producing food as farmer, though Cultivators, poultry, fishery, plantations are entirely different practices that have completely different practices and problems. Cultivators form over 90% of the farmers. clubbing everything with it was an “Eccentric Idea.” Canal / tube-well irrigation, seeds, harvesting, procurement, storage, transportation and distribution exclusively relates to cultivars than plantations, fisheries etc.

 

Instead of removing commission agents, middlemen and commission agents and streamlining marketing, his idea of Cooperative Farming, Group Farming, Small Holders Estates, Contract Farming, Corporate Farming, Company Farming, Government State Farms etc is an attempt to “Eradicate Farmers And Turn Them In To Labor.” So the brain behinds Reliance farming plans is this crook Swaminathan.

 

Quack M.S. Swaminathan

 

1.  It is important to note that potential yields of local cultivars were much more even at the time of independence than average crop yields today. The missing factors all these years were Irrigation, Farm Credit, Inadequate Support Price, Poor Storage and Handling and Middlemen Exploitation. THERE IS NO IMPROVEMENT IN THESE YEARS Though he was Chairing and members of of over 100 committees or commissions.  

 

2.  He was among the prime conspirators to propose “Ganga Cauvery Link To Cost $150b” which has been repeatedly thrust on India in different forms. Food can be produced in Ganga Basin itself using 50 billion tons of water efficiently and exporting 30 MT of food to South.

 

Ø      He is so stupid that he perhaps never knew that $150b or of the cost of Ganga Cauvery Link Canal will be charged to TN or other partners that shall make TN bankrupt. Eventually little or no water may reach Cauvery due to losses on way.

 

3.  Wasteful Dams on Narmada, release of 500 maf water in Thar Desert, destroying desert eco system affecting Monsoon have severely impacted agriculture.

 

http://www.answers.com/topic/m-s-swaminathan

 

4.  In the above link you have the manipulative skills of Quack PhD holder, getting rewarded for non performance.

 

5. The following article explains how he manipulated Scientific Papers etc.

 

6.  But let me add the crucial observation that “India Imported 18,000 Tons of Mexican Wheat” is an illustration that IARI seeds program was a failure. And he completely failed from 1952-67 period during which time he climbed to become “Director” of IARI rewarded for all the failures.

 

7.   Most irrigation projects failed largely because “Unfertile or Suitable Farm Lands Were Identified” for irrigation, he was member responsible selection of unfertile lands.  

 

8.  Looking at his continuous Chairing of several committees since 1982 from age 57 onwards indicates his gross failure and getting rewarded for non performance.

 

9.  Is it not a shame that India could not find a replacement of M.S. Swaminathan “Morris Oxford” – Dented and Rusty Ambassador of Indian Agriculture in 50 years?

 

Ravinder Singh

 

http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4215

http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/pubs/92prom.html

 

In an article he was asked to provide for the report Swaminathan tells his readers how, ‘Genes have been transferred by scientists in India from Amaranthus to potato for improving protein quality and quantity’. This information is marked out in bold type. In fact, however, this GM potato has been shown to be little more than hype. Even Prof. C Kameswara Rao – a keen biotech supporter – has pointed out that it is ‘unlikely to see the light of the day in this decade’. According to Prof Rao, ‘I noticed that the potato used to make wafer chips in England has 6.0 to 6.5 per cent of protein, while that of the GE potato is only about 2.5 per cent. I do not understand how this dismal product could generate so much euphoria…’ (‘Dismal’ GM potato a decade away)

 

Just how credible Swaminathan and his promotion of a locally aware biotechnology really are remains open to question. His track record remains controversial and some, like Dr Claude Alvares of the Goa Institute, accuse him of being a shrewd political operator whose real strength lies in knowing how to get things done and how to adapt his rhetoric to create a veneer of public acceptability:

 

FOCUS ON ASIA

Here’s a profile of the Godfather of India’s Green Revolution, M.S. Swaminathan who’s a key speaker at the 3-day International Conference which opens in New Delhi, India, today (Tuesday): “Agricultural Biotechnology: Ushering in the Second Green Revolution”.

http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=4179

Swaminathan, India’s premier Green Revolution scientist, has a talent for dressing up the industry lobby’s agenda in the rhetoric of village India, women’s empowerment, eco-tech etc., creating a facade of an unthreatening, ecologically and socially sensitive biotechnology ‘domesticated’ to local conditions.

But how credible Swaminathan and his promotion of a locally aware biotechnology really are remains open to question. His track record remains controversial. There are accusations of scientific fraud as well as scandals involving the suicide of scientists at the institute from which he launched the Green Revolution. But these have been buried beneath a plethora of awards and honours.

The real importance of Swaminathan’s record is that it points to the errors India will repeat if it embarks on a Swaminathan-led “Second Green Revolution”.

M.S. Swaminathan – a GM WATCH profile

(for all the links: http://www.gmwatch.org/profile1.asp?PrId=291&page=S )

Since 1988 the plant geneticist Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan has headed his own M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai (Madras) India. The Foundation sees GM crops, and biotechnology in general, not only as having immense potential but as ‘the only way we can face the challenges of the future’. It also sees India as needing to ‘move forward vigorously in mobilising the power of biotechnology’ in order not to lag behind China and more developed countries. (The Chennai Declaration: Bridging the Genetic Divide)

As M.S. Swaminathan is considered the Godfather of the Green Revolution in India, his promotion of GM crops is inevitably projected as an ushering in of a second Green Revolution. Indeed, that is the title of an International Conference in August 2004 in New Delhi, organised by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation in partnership with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the biotech industry-backed International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Application (ISAAA).

The conference, whose speakers include Swaminathan, has been organized to ‘deliberate on the recommendations of the Task Force on Application of Biotechnology in Agriculture’. This Task Force, headed by Swaminathan, had been charged by the Indian Government with the task of making recommendations on how to reform India’s biosafety system.

The Task Force’s recommendations have proved controversial. Greenpeace India accused it of seeking ‘to strip away regulation of biotechnology, rather than improve it’ while P.V. Satheesh of the Deccan Development Society had earlier warned that the real agenda behind the reforms was to introduce ‘fast track approval’. (Swaminathan Panel Recommendations on Biotechnology Flawed and Dangerous)

Although a GM proponent, Swaminathan does not present as a pugnacious propagandist for the technology in the style of Norman Borlaug, that other Green Revolution scientist. For instance, the alternative title of Swaminathan’s Foundation is ‘The Centre for Research on Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development’. And traditional organic farming is researched there alongside genetic engineering which Swaminathan argues can assist organic agriculture. The Foundation is also at great pains to emphasise the need for technology development and dissemination to be ‘pro-nature, pro-poor, and pro-women’ in orientation. Similarly, Swaminathan and the Foundation promote the idea of ‘biovillages’, which combine IT and biotechnology with the rhetoric of village india, women’s empowerment, etc.

This more sophisticated stance, together with Swaminathan’s international status as the scientist-hero who brought about India’s Green Revolution, has meant that biotechnology supporters have found him an attractive figure to involve in the promotion of GM crops both in India and beyond. In UNDP’s highly controversial Human Development Report 2001, for instance, the Lead Author, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, in seeking to justify the report’s support for GM crops quotes Swaminathan. Swaminathan, in turn, quotes Ghandi on the need to remember the poor.

In an article he was asked to provide for the report Swaminathan tells his readers how, ‘Genes have been transferred by scientists in India from Amaranthus to potato for improving protein quality and quantity’. This information is marked out in bold type. In fact, however, this GM potato has been shown to be little more than hype. Even Prof. C Kameswara Rao – a keen biotech supporter – has pointed out that it is ‘unlikely to see the light of the day in this decade’. According to Prof Rao, ‘I noticed that the potato used to make wafer chips in England has 6.0 to 6.5 per cent of protein, while that of the GE potato is only about 2.5 per cent. I do not understand how this dismal product could generate so much euphoria…’ (‘Dismal’ GM potato a decade away)

The answer to Rao’s question is simple. The fact that the GM potato is a locally-led and philanthropically directed project gives it the hallmarks of acceptability. This makes it a perfect poster child for promoting the technology. In a similar way, Swaminathan provides an acceptable face for GM crops in the Third World, creating a facade of an unthreatening, ecologically and socially sensitive biotechnology ‘domesticated’ to local conditions.

Just how credible Swaminathan and his promotion of a locally aware biotechnology really are remains open to question. His track record remains controversial and some, like Dr Claude Alvares of the Goa Institute, accuse him of being a shrewd political operator whose real strength lies in knowing how to get things done and how to adapt his rhetoric to create a veneer of public acceptability:

‘At a Gandhi seminar, he will speak on Gandhi. At a meeting in Madras, on the necessity for combine harvesters. At another meeting on appropriate technology, he will plump for organic manure. At a talk in London, he will speak on the necessity of chemical fertilizers. He will label slum dwellers “ecological refugees”, and advertise his career as a quest for “imparting an ecological basis to productivity improvement”. This, after presiding over, and indiscriminately furthering, one of the ecologically most devastating technologies of modern times – the [High Yielding Varieties] package of the Green Revolution.’

While Swaminathan is feted around the globe as the hero of India’s Green Revolution, the manner in which he achieved such prominence is much less well known. He did so, charges Alvares, in a way that has a parallel in India claiming credit for its conquest of space when it was riding piggyback on Soviet science and technology. Swaminathan imported borrowed science evolved in Mexico by Norman Borlang and American interests. In taking India down this path, his critics say, he neglected high yielding indigenous varieties adapted to local conditions in favour of chemical and irrigation dependent varieties which have with time had adverse effects on both productivity and the environment, often with catastrophic consequences for India’s millions of small and marginal farmers.

 

It is also alleged that Swaminathan’s rise to prominence went hand in hand with the suppression of the work of Indian scientists who were making a case within the agricultural mainstream for less input-intensive farming. One of these was Dr R.H. Richharia who worked all his life to develop indigenous rice species and whose guiding principle was, ‘Your work is only valuable if it helps the poor farmers’. Richaria almost single-handedly put together a germplasm collection of over 20,000 rice varieties. Currently in the possession of the Indira Gandhi Agricultural University in Chhattisgarh; this collection was at the centre of a major controversy when Syngenta attempted to take it over under the guise of collaborative research, a move only thwarted by civil society pressures. Dr Richaria himself sees Swaminathan and his backers as being linked to both his removal from his post at the Central Rice Research Institute and attempts to gain control over his germplasm collection. Of the latter he says, ‘He was behind it all, because he held all the power… He was the all in all.’ (Crushed but not defeated)

Perhaps most disturbingly, Swaminathan has been censured for making misleading scientific claims and has been linked to scandals involving the suicide of scientists at the institute from which he launched the Green Revolution. However, even these scandals, as we shall see, have had no serious adverse impact on Swaminathan’s career.

He is the recipient of almost every conceivable award – national and international. He has also been India’s Secretary for Agriculture (1980-81), the Director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (1966-72), the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (1972-80) and the International Rice Research Institute (1982-88), the Independent Chairman of the FAO Council (1981-85), and the President of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (1984-90).

Swaminathan was born in India in 1925 in what is now the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. He almost became a police officer, but a change of career path led to a Ph.d in genetics from Cambridge in 1952. By 1966, Swaminathan was Director of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi. With help from the Rockefeller Foundation, he started importing large quantities of cross-bred wheat seed developed by Norman Borlaug in Mexico. Swaminathan disseminated these plants, which were far more tolerant of chemical fertilisers, in the Punjab. He would later marry this plant to an Indian variety. ‘Our history,’ he says, ‘changed from that time.’

Swaminathan’s apparent scientific successes were first acknowledged in 1971 with the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership. This award set the precedent for a plethora of awards and honours in the years to come, including over 40 honorary doctorates from universities around the world and the World Food Prize in 1987.

As well as achieving a rapid dissemination of Norman Borlang’s dwarf strains of Mexican wheat, Swaminathan claimed to have developed a new wheat (Sharbati Sonora) by subjecting the Mexican parent lines of the Sonora variety to radiation. At a popular lecture in Delhi in 1967, Swaminathan claimed that Sharbati Sonora contained as much protein and lysine as milk. Dr. Claude Alvares takes up the story:

‘In three subsequent papers he continued to claim a high lysine content. In 1967, Dr Y.P. Gupta, an Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) scientist, disputed the claim and said that the figures had been manipulated. A number of researchers from abroad also stated that the lysine content of Swaminathan’s wheat and that of the Mexican wheat did not differ in any significant content. Finally the Central International de Mejoramiento de Maizy Trigo (CIMMYT) itself reported in 1969 that there was no significant difference between Sonora and Sharbati Sonora.

Yet nine months after the CIMMYT report appeared, Swaminathan once again submitted the 1967 Food Industries paper to a short lived journal called Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, in which he again claimed a value of two and half times the normal lysine value for Sharbati Sonora. Eight months later [in 1971], he was given the Magsaysay Award, for having “developed a wheat variety containing three per cent lysine”, and which, the Magsaysay Foundation claimed, “was now alleviating the deficiency of essential amino acids in the Indian diet so harmful particularly to brain development in young children.” Every word of the citation was false… The award, however, was instrumental in Swaminathan being made the director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)’.

What brought the lysine scandal to public notice was the suicide in May 1972 of Dr. Vinod Shah, an agronomist at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute. The IARI was where Swaminathan had launched his Green Revolution.

According to Bharat Dogra, a very senior and respected journalist in India who has researched Swaminathan and contemporary agricultural scientists for many years, Dr Shah had been repelled by the ‘glaring irregularities, victimisation, nepotism, bogus research, sycophancy’ he had found at the IARI. (Bharat Dogra, The Life and Work of Dr R.H. Richaria, p.99) Dr Shah’s death was not the only suicide by a scientist at the institute but ‘it attracted more attention partly because of his youth and partly because of the suicide note left behind by him in which he clearly explained the dishonesty and irregularities… which had disillusioned him so much.’ (Bharat Dogra, p.100)

It also emerged that Dr Shah had met with Swaminathan, the IARI’s Director, some time before he committed suicide. Following that meeting, he had stopped taking any food. His suicide note was addressed personally to Dr Swaminathan. It alleged, ‘A lot of unscientific data are collected to fit in your line of thinking.’ It also said, ‘A person with ideas and constructive scientific criticism is always victimised’. (Bharat Dogra, p.107)

An Achievement Audit Committee Report had already been critical of the ‘pompous or exaggerated statements made in IARI documents’ (Bharat Dogra, p.101) as well as of the generally poor quality of research at Swaminathan’s Institute – research which failed to meet the claims made for it. And the lysine content of Swaminathanís wheat was not the only case of ‘blatantly dishonest research’ to come to light in the enquiries made following the allegations contained in Dr Shah’s suicide note. (Bharat Dogra, p.102)

A pulse variety known as Baisaki Moong was claimed to have achieved very high yields in IARI research in the late 60s and early 70s. However, enquiries showed that in trials around the country its performance had been nowhere near as good. In Punjab and Delhi, for instance, ‘the yields were only about half of those claimed to have been obtained in the IARI experiemnts’  (Bharat Dogra, p.102).

Claims relating to a super-nutritious maize developed at IARI also ‘became a major scientific scandal’. Initially the research had been credited with having developed ‘a new strain of maize with the protein content doubled and having nutritious value like milk’ It was even claimed that mothers were reporting that children fed on this maize were less irritable than milk-fed babies. ‘Subsequent experience revealed all such claims to be figments of imagination’. (Bharat Dogra, p.103)

The most serious accusations had come from Dr Y.P. Gupta of the Bio-Chemistry Division of the IARI. Gupta had worked on the lysine content of various wheat varieties and contested Swaminathan’s published data on the protein and lysine content of Sharbati Sonora from an early stage. Gupta specifically alleged that the figure for Sharbati Sonora’s parent plant had been deliberately reduced in a half-yearly report in order to make Sharbati Sonora appear in a more favourable light.

After the circumstances surrounding Dr Shah’s suicide had caused uproar in the Indian Parliament, the government had felt compelled to appoint an enquiry committee headed by the late Dr P.B. Gajendragadkar, a former chief justice of the Supreme Court. Dr Alvares takes up the story:

‘The committee examined the charge of unjustified claims and ruled against Swaminathan… In 1974, the New Scientist published a detailed report on M S Swaminathan’s lysine falsehoods. Swaminathan survived the attack. Immediately after the Emergency, it was the Statesman in a detailed report dated May 17, 1977, that re-opened the entire debate. It was only on this occasion, for the first time since 1967, that Swaminathan admitted that the data concerning lysine was incorrect. Six years had passed since he had won the Magsaysay Award, which, if the citation was totally wrong, was improperly conferred.’

Swaminathan tried to put down the scandal to an ‘analytical error’ which he said was the fault of one of his subordinates but, Dr Alvares argues, there are other indicators that support a lack of ethics:

‘One is his harassment of all those scientists who had exposed his claims on lysine in the first place. Within a year, for example, of questioning the data in 1967, Dr Y.P. Gupta’s students were taken away from him, he was denied promotions, his junior was selected to become his head, and his application for a Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) assignment was held back by the IARI till [after] the due date.’
 

It was only 15 years later that the Supreme Court of India was able to vindicate Y.P. Gupta. Dr Gupta, the court ruled, ‘has been the victim of unfair treatment’ and the court went on to describe the attitude of his employer as ‘unethical’. It also termed the action of the institute’s academic council, chaired by Swaminathan, as ‘callous’, ‘heartless’, and ‘shocking’. (The Great Gene Robbery)

However, none of this stopped Swaminathan becoming chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet (SACC). Then in 1982 he left India for the highly paid post of Director General of the Rockefeller- Foundation assisted International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), based at Los Banos in the Philippines. After seven years with IRRI, Swaminathan returned to India to devote his efforts to his M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).

The Foundation is now at the centre of Swaminathan’s promotion of India’s second Green Revolution. Its conferences have provided platforms for the industry. In 2004 two events were organised at Chennai to commemorate ‘the occasion of the International Year of Rice 2004’: a National Colloquium on Molecular Breeding and Shaping the Future of Rice, and a Forum on Biotechnology and the future of rice. Both events were dominated by panelists who favored the introduction of the GM seeds, like Golden Rice Network Coordinator and former Monsanto employee, Gerard Barry and William James Peacock of CSIRO. (GM supporters confronted in India)

An MSSRF event had also provided Gerard Barry with a PR platform four years earlier to promote Monsanto’s provision of royalty-free licenses for the development of ‘golden rice’, as well as the corporation’s willingness to open its rice-genome sequence database to researchers around the world. GM lobbyist C.S. Prakash was another speaker on that occasion. (Gene revolution may not feed all)

Critics like the New Delhi-based food and trade policy analyst, Devinder Sharma complain that the right lessons have not yet been learned from Swaminathan’s first Green Revolution before the second is being promoted. The Indian scientist and environmentalist, Vandana Shiva points out that the Green Revolution:

‘has led to reduced genetic diversity, increased vulnerability to pests, soil erosion, water shortages, reduced soil fertility, micronutrient deficiencies, soil contamination, reduced availability of nutritious food crops for the local population, the displacement of vast numbers of small farmers from their land, rural impoverishment and increased tensions and conflicts. The beneficiaries have been the agrochemical industry, large petrochemical companies, manufacturers of agricultural machinery, dam builders and large landowners.’ (The Green Revolution in the Punjab)

And there have been high human costs from forcing the Green Revolution’s industrial farming model onto small and marginal farmers. Writing in response to the news in summer 2004 that many hundreds of poor farmers had once again taken their own lives, often by drinking pesticides, Devinder Sharma noted, ‘the tragedy is that the human cost is entirely being borne by the farmers’.

The greatest irony, writes Sharma, is that ‘those who created the problem in the first instance are the ones who are being asked to provide the solutions.’ (Farm Genocide: The Killing Fields of the Green Revolution)

Posted in Swaminathan, M. S. | 7 Comments »