The Global Bazaar for Human Reproductive Material

IVF has given hope to millions of aspiring parents, but the wild inconsistency of rules on egg donation has created big disparities — and for entrepreneurs, huge opportunities.



Nearly 10,000 babies were born with the help of donated eggs in 2006, the most recent year for which data are available, almost double the number in 2000. The recession has upped donor-applicant numbers by about 25%.



In 2006 — the most recent year for which data are available — Spain reported 7,080 egg donations, accounting for more than half the tally for all of Europe.


Germany has some of Europe’s strictest fertility laws — egg donation is punishable by up to three years in prison — prompting many would-be parents there to seek treatment abroad.


Authorities last summer shut down a Bucharest fertility clinic that served an almost exclusively Israeli clientele. Nearly two dozen Israeli doctors and nurses were arrested and charged with compensating egg donors, which is illegal in Romania.


In response to growing outward fertility tourism, the government in March banned citizens from traveling abroad for treatments involving sperm or egg donation, which were already illegal within Turkey.


A 2007 British law capped compensation for eggs at just 250 pounds ($375), virtually eliminating domestic supply. While Spain and Cyprus are the main destinations for British fertility tourists, a London company has introduced a U.S.-based product and stirred outrage this spring by raffling a human egg.


The island nation of just 1 million people has the world’s highest per capita number of fertility clinics. Following the April closure of a clinic that imported egg donors from Ukraine, the government is exploring new restrictions on the egg trade.



In July, the Knesset passed a law legalizing egg donation in an attempt to stop Israeli couples from seeking eggs on the black market. Permitted compensation for an egg is expected to be fixed at 6,000 shekels ($1,500). The law also bans Israeli women from traveling abroad to donate eggs.