July 1, 2022

Hungarian “racial purity” genome test slammed

The Hungarian Medical Research Council (ETT), which advises the government on health policy, has asked public prosecutors to investigate a genetic-testing company that confirmed that a member of parliament was of pure Hungarian stock and did not have Jewish or Roma heritage.

Hungarian officials united this week in opposition to ethnic violence and anti-Semitic attacks, including an attack on a former Chief Rabbi. However, a scientific scandal over debunked notions of racial purity has emerged as a cause for further soul-searching. The Hungarian Medical Research Council (ETT), which advises the government on health policy, asked public prosecutors to investigate a genetic-testing company that confirmed that a member of parliament was of pure Hungarian stock and did not have Jewish or Roma heritage. The MP is a member of the far-right Jobbik party, which won 17% of the votes in the 2010 general election. Reportedly, he requested the certificate from the firm Nagy Gén Diagnostic and Research. The company compiled the document in September 2010, just before local elections.

Hungarian media seized on the certificate — which had the MP’s name blacked out — when it emerged on the web last month. According to the ETT’s secretary, Jószef Mandl, of the Semmelweis University in Budapest, the certificate is “professionally wrong, ethically unacceptable – and illegal”. The council discussed the matter on June 7 and concluded the genetic test violates the 2008 Law on Genetics, which only allows testing for health purposes.

“The council’s stand is important,” says Lydia Gall, an Eastern Europe and Balkans researcher at civil-rights group Human Rights Watch, who is based in Amsterdam. She says that in Hungary, “there have been many violent crimes against Roma and acts of anti-Semitism in the past few years”. She argues that politicians who try to use genetic tests to prove they are ‘pure’ Hungarian encourage racial hatred. ~ Nature News, Jun 12

Jared Yee
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genetic testing
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