[OPE] Sperm as a commodity: the evolution of the species from Denmark

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@telfort.nl>
Date: Sun Jun 07 2009 - 13:07:16 EDT

Business booms at world's biggest sperm bank

AARHUS - Business is booming for the world's biggest sperm bank, Denmark's
Cryos, (...) As a sign of its success, the sperm bank recently moved its
headquarters to a 1,000-square-metre (10,760-square-foot) airy and bright
office space brimming with photographs of dimple-cheeked newborns. It has
also doubled the number of employees, and sales have risen from two million
euros (2.7 million dollars) in 2006 to three million in 2008. Jesper, a
28-year-old medical student, walks out of the building. He tells AFP that he
decided to become a donor after watching a programme on television about
infertile couples. "My girlfriend is pregnant and she suggested that I
should be a donor to help others," he says, refusing to divulge his family
name. Hans, a 38-year-old electrician who has children of his own, has a
similar explanation. "I do it to do a good deed, but also for the money," he
says, explaining that he gets paid 600 kroner (80 euros, 110 dollars) per
donation for his "very good quality" sperm.

Each year, Cryos exports 85 percent of its 15,000 to 20,000 sperm donations
to more than 400 clinics in 60 countries. But despite the rising number of
donors, Cryos has a hard time meeting demand. The phenomenon has surged in
the past three or four years, and Cryos "can't meet the avalanche of demand
from the western world, in particular the United States".

Laws that bar anonymous sperm donations in nearby countries like Sweden,
Britain, The Netherlands, Austria and Germany have also led to a rise in
"fertility tourism, where women visit clinics in other countries to be
inseminated, like French women who go to Belgium and Swedes who go to
Denmark," Schou says. (...) Schou insists that the key to his company's
success is its top-notch selection process which yields high quality sperm.
"A high quality sperm provided in the best safety conditions, a body of 335
donors and technology that enables us to offer a competitive product in the
requested time frame," he boasts. Cryos' sperm has produced more than 14,000
full-term pregnancies since 1991, and the company has received piles of
letters of thanks from women around the world, Schou says. And while the
sperm from a Danish Viking with blond hair and blue eyes may be exactly what
clients are looking for in northern Europe, it "is far from the ideal in
other parts of the world." "That's why we've opened a franchise in New York
and another one in Bombay, in India."

In the next five years, Cryos plans to open up to 10 new offices, expanding
further in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia to give it a broad ethnical
donor base to meet the demands of people all around the world. Cryos chief
doctor, Gert Bruun Petersen, heads a team that "sorts through the list of
possible donors, discarding more than two-thirds mainly because of their
sperm quality."
He says he dreams of seeing "all children born with Cryos sperm born 100
percent healthy."

Clinical studies show there are 15 to 20 cases per year of Cryos offspring
born with malformations, representing about four percent of all donors.
"It's important for us to identify the donor whose sperm led to
malformations as quickly as possible to limit the problem and determine if
it is a genetic disorder," Petersen says. The ideal would be to "examine the
entire genetic mass" of a donor in order to prevent birth defects. "But
that's mission impossible today," he says. In addition to selling sperm to
clinics, Cryos recently began direct sales to the public in order to meet
the demands of some clients. It set up a catalogue of 50 donors, including
44 who remain anonymous, on its website, listing donors' profiles with their
IQ, childhood photographs, hobbies, school grades and other personal

Buyers can select the sperm of the donor that most appeals to them -- not an
option at clinics, where sperm quality is the only determining factor -- and
buy it online for up to 8,000 euros. The initiative has been heavily
criticised in Denmark, where opponents argue that sperm should not be
handled like a supermarket product. Among Cryos' donors, around 20 percent
have chosen to not be anonymous. Their average age is 32, while that of
anonymous donors is between 23 and 25 years. "They may be interested in
having contact with their offspring, and may not be as altruistic as the
anonymous donors. They may have other motives, ulterior motives that are
more egotistical," says Schou. And there is a market for donors who can be
traced. Contrary to heterosexuals, he explains, "lesbians and single women
often prefer this kind of donor because they know their children will one
day want to know who their biological father is."

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Received on Sun Jun 7 13:11:26 2009

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