MADELEINE BRAND, host:
In New York City, it's getting hard to find some good Nordic sperm.
The leading Scandinavian sperm bank, Cryos International, is running dry. That's because the Food and Drug Administration has banned sperm from European countries that may have mad cow disease.
Joining us now is the manager of the Cryos sperm bank, Claus Rodgaard. Welcome to the program.
Mr. CLAUS RODGAARD (Cryos International): Thank you very much.
BRAND: Well, first explain this ban. Mad cow disease is this brain-eating disease in cattle and when people eat contaminated beef, they can get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. How would that affect the sperm?
Mr. RODGAARD: Well, we don't think that it affects the sperm at all. This has also been backed up by the World Health Organization. There's absolutely nothing indicating that it's possible. So…
BRAND: So mad cow is not a sexually transmitted disease?
Mr. RODGAARD: No, it is not.
BRAND: Okay. But still, the ban is in effect.
Mr. RODGAARD: Yes.
BRAND: How is it affecting your business?
Mr. RODGAARD: Well, it's completely stopped the import of any sperm from Europe. You know, it has a quite dramatic effect on our business. The only reason why we're still here is because we've actually opened also for donations here in New York.
BRAND: So you're no longer the leading Scandinavian sperm bank?
Mr. RODGAARD: We are in a way because we still have a little supply left, and I guess it doesn't take much nowadays, since you can't import sperm from Europe anymore.
BRAND: Well, is it that desirable to have Scandinavian sperm?
Mr. RODGAARD: We are part of one of the biggest sperm banks located in Denmark, and when you only have offices in Denmark, you're going to have mostly guys from Denmark donating. And then back in the '90s, it just happened by coincidence that we found out there was a demand here and we decided to help the patients here in the United States.
BRAND: Well, now what are they getting? A woman comes in and she's just going to get ordinary American sperm?
Mr. RODGAARD: Well, I wouldn't call it ordinary. We've already seen a lot of great donors here in New York. But sperm banking, it's not about creating this designed baby or anything. What it's all about is people are trying to find a donor that matches themself, which me being an Danish guy, if my sperm didn't work, I of course would love to do a photo match and find a donor that looked like me.
BRAND: So there aren't similar bans in other countries? Just here?
Mr. RODGAARD: No. There's nobody that has any ban that resembles this ban.
BRAND: If a woman wants some good, hearty Danish stock…
Mr. RODGAARD: Yes.
BRAND: …they just go to Denmark and…
Mr. RODGAARD: They can do that, yeah. In fact, what you're seeing also in Europe, we call it more and more fertility tourism.
BRAND: Fertility tourism?
Mr. RODGAARD: Yes, believe it or not.
BRAND: So that's what's it called?
Mr. RODGAARD: That's what we call it.
Mr. RODGAARD: But you really see that more and more in Europe, particularly in the U.K. You can't use anonymous donors and they're not allowed to get paid. So they don't have any donors anymore. So you just fly through to Denmark or Belgium or Spain to have an insemination performed.
BRAND: Wow. It's a brave new world.
Mr. RODGAARD: It is. Well, there's more to the sperm business than just sperm, of course.
BRAND: Right, and - than meets the eye, obviously.
Mr. RODGAARD: Yes, that too. Luckily, you can (unintelligible)
(Soundbite of laughter)
BRAND: Claus Rodgaard, manager of the sperm bank in New York City, Cryos International, thanks for joining us.
Mr. RODGAARD: Thanks.