A claim that you can detect poisons in Haruaki Gulf marine life via a discredited electro-acupuncture technique has been swallowed whole cloth by the New Zealand Herald.
The paper printed the claim on Sunday (September 27) under the heading “Samples positive for poison”, citing campaigner Sarah Silverstar. Marine birds, oysters and dog vomit were apparently “tested in an Auckland clinic by EAV machine” and found to contain brodifacoum and 1080.
EAV machines combine acupuncture with tiny measurements of the skin´s electrical resistance, claiming variously to map energy imbalances, detect AIDs viruses or correct imbalances in the immune system. Although popular in the alternative health industry, a number of civil, criminal and professional board actions around the globe have been taken against proponents for misleading claims, false advertising and even manslaughter.
“This is like saying your fridge magnet can tell if you have swine flu,” says Vicki Hyde, Chair of the NZ Skeptics. “What´s next – will the Herald´s political reporters recommend that Parliament sit only when the Moon is in Scorpio? Or will they get their weather page information from chicken entrails?”
There is a serious point to these examples, says Hyde.
“With more media employing less experienced journalists, we can expect more truly silly stories to be run by the press. The tragedy in this case is that it involves important issues for the New Zealand environment.”
The claims were made despite many different bodies citing testing by independent scientists, veterinary surgeons and pathologists which showed no brodifacoum present, nor any symptoms of such poisoning in the dogs, dolphins, penguins, fish and shellfish checked. Information on these results is publicly available on the Department of Conservation website. Furthermore, 1080 has not been used on any Gulf Islands since at least 2004.
Sarah Silverstar even admitted in her original email that testing by a reputable body showed there was no detectable traces at all in the penguin samples, but rejected this evidence.
“so what? these EAV test results prove the EXTREME sensitivity of life to these toxins. We are talking parts per billion, parts per trillion.”
“We wish that the Herald´s reporters had taken a moment to wonder what EAV testing did and whether it was a credible claim,” says Hyde. “By all means critique the use of 1080 – that´s how application practices have improved over the years, after all – and keep looking for better alternatives. But our native flora and fauna, and how we save them from introduced pests, are far too important issues to be treated so naively.”