Indian scientists have been found guilty of committing scientific fraud and then covering it up over contaminated genetically modified cotton seeds in India. The scientists were accused of contaminating the Bikaneri Nerma Bt or BN Bt cotton with a gene from Monsanto.

An expert panel was convened to investigate the accusation after Mahyco, the marketer of the BN Bt cotton, complained to the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) that the BN Bt contained a gene developed by its partner Monsanto. The GM cotton variety in question had been developed and commercialized in 2009 as an alternative to the GM cotton marketed by Mahyco.

The panel recently issued a report of its findings, which revealed how the contamination took place, how scientists at various levels tried to cover it up and that the contamination may not have been “accidental,” as was previously claimed.

“Accidental contamination would be difficult to explain,” the report said, citing several technical reasons.

The most shocking part about the findings is that the scientists knew about the contamination and they went ahead with regulatory approvals and commercialization of the seeds.

“There were indications prior to commercial release in 2009 that BN Bt was contaminated. These were not formally brought to the attention of the relevant authorities. Neither these indications were followed up appropriately by the scientist who observed them nor was any attention paid by others who came to know of them,” the report concluded.