Jane Goodall, the primatologist celebrated for her meticulous studies of chimps in the wild, is releasing a book next month on the plant world that contains at least a dozen passages borrowed without attribution, or footnotes, from a variety of Web sites.
The borrowings in “Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder From the World of Plants” range from phrases to an entire paragraph from Web sites such as Wikipedia and others that focus on astrology, tobacco, beer, nature and organic tea.
Goodall wrote “Seeds of Hope” with Gail Hudson, who has contributed to two other books by the 78-year-old naturalist. Hudson is described on literati.net as a newspaper and magazine editor, freelance writer, former spirituality editor for Amazon.com and longtime devotee of organic foods and holistic living.
“This was a long and well researched book,” Goodall said in an e-mail, “and I am distressed to discover that some of the excellent and valuable sources were not properly cited, and I want to express my sincere apologies. I hope it is obvious that my only objective was to learn as much as I could so that I could provide straightforward factual information distilled from a wide range of reliable sources.”
Goodall said she will discuss the issue on her Jane Goodall Institute Web site blog and will correct future editions.
The book’s publisher, Grand Central, said in an e-mail it was surprised to “hear of the assertions.” It added: “We have not formulated a detailed plan beyond crediting the sources in subsequent releases.”
Hudson said she had no comment.
Goodall joins a list of famous authors who have recently faced questions about material they included in their work. Often, the cause is speed and sloppiness in the research, sometimes performed by co-authors and abetted by technology that allows a writer to swiftly transfer passages from one place to another — and just as swiftly to forget it was done. An expert in botany invited by The Washington Post to review “Seeds of Hope” noticed some of the echoed passages, notified the editors and declined the assignment.
In “Seeds of Hope,” Goodall has crafted a passionate narrative about plants, their effect on our lives and her desire to preserve the natural environment. Her first-person reflections are full of her well-known charm and humanitarianism. It is when the book moves away from Goodall’s own stories to deliver background information on plants and their history that the instances of borrowing creep in. Goodall, whose reputation was founded on observations of chimps in Tanzania, acknowledges early in the book that her training in botany is limited. “I have spent a lifetime loving plants,” she writes, “even though I have never studied them as a scientist.”
In the book, Goodall extols the benefits of sustainable farming. She expresses her shock at learning of dangerous conditions for workers who harvest tea.
“According to Oxfam,” she writes, “a British nonprofit agency working to put an end to poverty worldwide, the spraying of pesticides on tea estates is often done by untrained casual daily-wage workers, sometimes even by children and adolescents.”
That paragraph appears word for word on the Web site of Choice Organic Teas, a company dedicated to ethical labor practices. Choice Organic Teas was selected in 2010 to carry the Jane Goodall “Good for All” brand on a new line of products, and it donates a slice of its profits to the Jane Goodall Institute.
Goodall explains the toxic dangers in some detail, writing: “Most of these chemicals — such as Aldrin 20E, Carbofuran 30, Endosulfan 35 EC, Malathion 50 EC, Tetradifon 8 EC, Calixin 80 EC — are listed as hazardous and toxic, and a number of them are banned in Western countries. Despite dangers of exposure to these poisons, the workers are frequently barefoot and in shorts rather than protected by recommended aprons.”
This material is replicated nearly verbatim from the same Web site page. Both passages also appear in nearly identical language on other organic tea Web sites and in the 2008 book “Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World” by Diane MacEachern. The language can be traced to a 2002 draft report, “The Tea Market — A Background Study,” which lacks an authorship credit.
“Seeds of Hope” contains language from Wikipedia in its discussion of 18th-century Philadelphia botanist John Bartram, who shipped boxes of seeds to Europeans. Goodall writes: “ ‘Bartram’s Boxes,’ as they came to be known, were regularly sent to Peter Collinson for distribution to a wide list of European clients.”
he Wikipedia entry reads: “Bartram’s Boxes as they then became known, were regularly sent to Peter Collinson every fall for distribution in England to a wide list of clients.”