Official statement issued by the Hungarian Skeptic Society reflecting on an anti GMO article

HSS press release

Head of the Department of Ecotoxicology of Agro-Enviromental Research Institute (AERI) Béla Darvas recently wrote an article on Átlátszó.hu – a Hungarian watchdog portal – discussing GM organisms. In his piece, Darvas – a prominent anti-GMO advocate – refers specifically to the Hungarian Skeptic Society (HSS) and various scientists as promoters of GMOs, claiming that for these “pro-GMO” organizations and individuals “GMO is beyond any scientific criticism and is the only viable way, providing the perfect solution”. Apart from the logical fallacies applied, including that of a straw man argument, there are several elements of his claims that should not be left unanswered. Thus, yesterday, the board of the Hungarian Skeptic Society issued a statement with regards to these claims.

The statement issued by the Hungarian Skeptic Society (HSS) is as follows:

  • HSS is not unconditionally pro-GM and does certainly not represent the idea that GMOs should be beyond scientific criticism;
  • Hungarian skeptics consider it unwise to make generalised statements on GMOs. We are convinced that gene technology itself as a method does not pose a specific threat or risk compared to other technologies used in agriculture, including cross-breeding and selective breeding. GM products are to be investigated individually, product by product for their consumer safety and environmental effects.
  • HSS is not pro-GM, but we follow a rational approach towards this technology. In debates we prefer the scientific approach instead of irrational fear-mongering.
  • In 2011 HSS invited both a ‘pro-GM’ scientists and an anti-GM activist for a public debate, the recording of which can be found on the HSS website, among the archives.
  • We had also specifically invited Béla Darvas – the author of the article we are referring to now – but he refused the invitation in an atrocious email.
  • HSS remains open for rational and sober debates over GM in the future as well.

In order to better understand the situation, one should know that GM has had direct political implications in Hungary as of late. The Hungarian Constitution had been largely modified in 2011 and it has a paragraph about GMOs:

Article XX

(1) Everyone shall have the right to physical and mental health.
(2) Hungary shall promote the effective application of the right referred to in Paragraph (1) by an agriculture free of genetically modified organisms, by ensuring access to healthy food and drinking water, by organising safety at work and healthcare provision, by supporting sports and regular physical exercise, as well as by ensuring the protection of the environment.