The Foreskin Industry
The Bio-Engineering and Cosmetics Industries
There’s now a well established industry built on obtaining the foreskins of neonate baby boys in the United States. In the American healthcare system, parents pay between $200 to $350 to obstetricians to circumcise their boys. Those obstetricians therefore have a vested financial interest, making it harder to objectively weigh the evidence that circumcision is a harmful practice of no medical benefit. Contrast this to the UK where the introduction of the NHS (national health service) seventy years ago was the last nail in the coffin for circumcision on supposed health grounds. Though some parents still wished to have their children circumcised, believing it had benefits, the government refused to fund the operation, deeming it to have no medical basis. Parents, of course, put a great deal of trust in their doctors, who are highly educated and sworn to do no harm. However, surely it makes sense to trust the global medical community on this issue – who are against circumcision – instead of US doctors who both profit from performing the procedure, and who may be subject to crippling litigation if it were widely admitted that circumcision is both harmful and medically unnecessary.
Moreover, there is an even bigger foreskin industry operating behind the scenes almost invisibly. Neonate foreskins are sold by the hospitals to bio-engineering and cosmetics companies who turn them into highly profitable products. The numbers of dollars involved are staggering, and this financial force funds lobbying and propaganda in favour of circumcision, because the end of circumcision would mean the end of the industry. The resale value of neonate foreskins is dizzying in that from one baby boy’s foreskin can be grown bio-engineered skin in a lab to the size of a football field. That’s 4 acres of new skin or around 200,000 units of manufactured skin, which is enough skin to cover about 250 people and sells at up to $3,000 a square foot. Considering that there are 1.25 million neonate foreskins circumcised each year in the U.S alone this is presumably the most lucrative trade in body parts in the history of humanity.
This newly bio-engineered skin is used for burns, persistent leg ulcers, bed sores, reconstructive surgery and other skin problems. Companies such as Advanced Tissue Sciences, BioSurface Technologies, Genzyme, Ortec International, and Organogenesis (and many others) are huge purchasers of infant foreskin tissue. Organogenesis’s Apligraf is the first and only human skin construct with FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval. Closing wounds is what skin constructs do best thus Bio-engineering researchers want to switch to skin constructs for some of their testing. It’s not certain how these constructs work, but the statistics seem credible. Made of newborn penis-wraps (neonatal foreskin) and cow fat (bovine collagen), Apligraf placed over wounds heals the treated area. Almost 50 percent more wounds heal with Apligraf than with compression alone. The following is a description of what Apligraf is from their website “Apligraf is a unique biological product, containing living cells and structural (rebuilding) proteins and growth factors similar to healthy human skin. Because it is biological, the body can use the elements in Apligraf to help repair itself. As a result, Apligraf is natural and well tolerated, with no major reported side effects.” Apligraf’s manufacturer Organogenesis Inc states on its website that: “Human keratinocytes and fibroblasts are derived from neonatal foreskins obtained for use under informed-consent guidelines. The foreskin is decontaminated with antibiotics, antifungals, and an ethyl alcohol rinse. Production of cell stocks involves enzymatic digestion of the foreskin tissue and fibroblast/keratinocyte isolation.”
Theories abound as to why newborn foreskins seem to work so well. According to the most accepted theory, newborn skin cells are a bit like stem cells, and can morph into any kind of skin cell, whereas adult skin cells perform a specific function, which is why skin grafting is problematic. Also, neonatal tissue hasn’t yet developed the immunity proteins that cause rejection with adult human skin.
Other companies also seem to know the value of neonate foreskins and the Cosmetics Industry has taken advantage by using fresh baby boy foreskins to manufacture skin rejuvenating lotions, creams and solutions because of the ability of foreskin cells to regenerate new skin cells. Although there is general outcry against cosmetic companies who use animals to test their products, there is little awareness that certain cosmetic companies, such as Estee Lauder, Helene Curtis, and Mary Kay Cosmetics, use neonate foreskins in their products. There is a product called TNS Recovery Complex by SkinMedica which is an anti-ageing serum costing over US$250 per ounce and is used by many high-profile celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock and Kate Beckinsale amongst others, as an alternative to cosmetic surgery. It is made from the foreskins of newborn baby boys. Once we all stop believing that the loss of the foreskin is far from trivial, and causes a great deal of suffering, cosmetics consumers will likely see this part of the industry in a totally new light.
Foreskin face creams were talked about enthusiastically on the Oprah show where it was announced that this new product which boosts collagen production and can rejuvenate skin contains an ingredient engineered from human foreskin cells. TNS contains an ingredient called NouriCel-MD which is the trade name for a combination of Natural Growth Factors, matrix proteins, and soluble collagen. TNS is comprised from six natural human growth factors found in normal healthy skin engineered from human foreskin. Proteins and collagen are not new but Natural Growth Factors are a new category of compounds that act as chemical messengers to turn on and off a variety of cellular activities. Human Growth Factors extracted from cultured cells of foreskin which are then engineered into cosmeceuticals is the same as saying the product contains human foreskin. Oprah Winfrey provides a prime example of the lack of awareness surrounding circumcision. In general she’s a champion of human rights. Yet on the one hand she staunchly condemns Female Genital Cutting, and on the other hand she’s promoting a product that wouldn’t exist without Male Genital Cutting. Surely the right to genital integrity is universal.
Circumcision is a multi-billion dollar industry in North America and one doctor alone in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia claims to have performed 20,000 circumcisions over the past decade, charging around $250 per procedure and earning a total $5 million. It is estimated that between the surgery and the foreskin’s resale value, each foreskin is worth approximately $100,000. The number crunchers estimate the developed world’s market for human-skin constructs is somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion for the treatment of burns alone; for the treatment of chronic wounds (diabetic ulcers, pressure sores, and venous ulcers), the market is roughly $10 billion. Advanced Tissue’s flagship skin-construct, Dermagraft (described on their website as “manufactured from human fibroblast cells derived from new born foreskin tissue”), sells for $3,000 per square foot, harvesting 250,000 square feet of Dermagraft from one foreskin alone.
Because most baby foreskins are used in insulin production, breathable bandages, and in the cosmetics industry, one has to wonder why the sale of all other human tissue is considered illegal, or is highly regulated, yet doctors are allowed to remove healthy tissue without the patient’s consent and against sound medical judgment, and then sell it for profit. Organogenesis, Novartis (the distributors of Apligraf), and Advanced Tissue Sciences were unresponsive to inquiries, and anti-circumcision activists claim the biotech companies won’t talk to reporters about the money. John A. Erickson, owner of sexuallymutilatedchild.org an anti-circumcision web site, received an anonymous email saying the going rate for infant foreskins at a large hospital in the greater San Diego area was $35 each, and that more ethical doctors deducted that amount from their circumcision fees.
Groups like the National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males (NOHARMM)…noharmm.org liken the harvesting of foreskin tissue to harvesting organs. Tim Hammond, director of NOHARMM, suggests that biotech companies should pursue other alternatives to human foreskin. “The courts have ruled that you cannot take healthy tissue from an infant to benefit a third party”, Hammond said. Apparently, nobody told Organogenesis or Janet Reno (U.S Attorney General at the time).
Lubrication Manufacturers have been making lucrative profits from circumcised men for quite some time now because the lack of foreskin necessitates artificial lubrication for masturbation and for penetrative sex. Circumcised men generally have to masturbate with manufactured lubrication because the friction caused by their hand can be irritating or uncomfortable. Thus they require to generate the smooth gliding action with artificial lubrication which a foreskin would otherwise produce in conjunction with the release of natural sexual secretions to get the sensations required to trigger the ejaculation reflex.
It is in the interests of the circumcision industry to maintain and continue routinely circumcising neonate boys because it is incredibly lucrative to them. Everyone from the doctor to the hospital to the biotech businesses to the government is profiting from the sale of amputated infant foreskins. However, as parents and as consumers, we all have a choice; and the more informed we are, the better choices we can make. The unfortunate dilemma about this issue is that neonates don’t have a voice regarding this seemingly unethical use of their private and most sensitive parts to fuel this multi billion dollar industry.
What happens to the 1.25 million neonate foreskins removed each year in North America?
The guys hosting this show seem oblivious to the issue of circumcision, and use sarcastic humour to trivialise the foreskin.
The disconcerting trivialisation of the foreskin is obvious in this clip.