Mad cow hits hard in our plans of spreading the European seed. American families that want to have the blond, blue-eyed Scandinavian toddler find it now harder to get that sperm. In May 2005, the FDA banned sperm import from any European country with cases of mad cow disease, from Denmark to the UK. Now even the best-stocked sperm banks are affected by this decision. "We still have a little bit left, but not much," said Claus Rodgaard, manager of Cryos International, a Danish-based sperm bank with an office in New York.
"We're not here to promote people to have blond, blue-eyed babies, but if those are the kinds of characteristics you're looking for, then Danish sperm is
good for that. That's all we have in Denmark." said Rodgaard.
The scientific world shows that the ban does not have a real basis. "The consensus in the United Kingdom is that this is a silly ban. There's no evidence to show that mad cow disease can be transmitted in human semen." said Dr Allan Pacey, an andrology expert at the University of Sheffield and secretary of the British Fertility Society.
The human type infection of mad cow disease, named Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, occurs primarily through the consume of infected cattle meat, rarely through contaminated surgical equipment or transplants of brain tissue, but the prion (the factor causing the disease) is not known to be passed through sperm. "Concerned doctors could always screen potential donors to see if they might be at high-risk for mad cow disease, but that a blanket ban was unnecessary.", said Pacey. "I'd be more worried about genetic diseases", said Dr Gianpiero Palermo, an associate professor at Cornell University's Center for Reproductive Medicine.
Germs like viruses (including HIV and hepatitis) or bacteria (like chlamydia) are much more likely to be transmitted through sperm donation. But even if the FDA has been asked to reconsider their ban, this won't happen soon. By now, eager American couples must pay a visit to Europe. "It's a completely random decision. Even though Canada has reported mad cow cases, you are still allowed to import all the tissue you want from Canada. We just have not been able to import any more Scandinavian sperm," Rodgaard said.
Palermo said the fuss is senseless, just as the ban itself is too.
"There's absolutely no difference between American and European sperm. If you are looking for a specific type of donor, we can find whatever genetic qualities you want in the US."