At 5 foot 11, Arnt has straight, blond hair and blue eyes. He swims, runs, skis on water and snow, and works out. A law student, the 28-year-old...

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At 5 foot 11, Arnt has straight, blond hair and blue eyes. He swims, runs, skis on water and snow, and works out. A law student, the 28-year-old describes himself as easygoing, a creative perfectionist with a good wit, an extrovert.

He’s not advertising for a girlfriend. His sperm is for sale.

Arnt is one of 50 men from Denmark whose sperm sits in one of three metal vats in Manhattan, waiting for a couple or a single mother desperate for a baby. In this case, a Viking baby.

The company, Scandinavian Cryobank, has been in business in Denmark for almost 20 years. It takes credit for 10,000 babies worldwide. Two years ago, the company opened a New York office and began marketing Scandinavian sperm to infertility doctors and their patients with a sleek albeit controversial slogan: “Congratulations, it’s a Viking!” Another advertisement shows a blond, blue-eyed baby and talks about his ancestors who beat Columbus to North America. “You’d better build a strong crib,” the ad boasts.

While some think pursuing the fantasy of a perfect child smacks of eugenics, Americans are finding ways to attempt to give birth to designer babies, whether through sperm from blond-haired, blue-eyed athletic Danes or by taking ads out in Ivy League college newspapers looking for an egg donor with high SAT scores and varsity-team record.

The freedom to choose the kind of child one wants, as opposed to a child who perhaps more closely resembles oneself, could create “consumer eugenics,” said Jonathan Moreno, an endowed professor of biomedical ethics at the University of Virginia. “We have cultural stereotypes. Blue eyes, light skin and height are valued. It would be a historic irony if we all ended up looking like that.”

It’s not clear how many people are opting to create Viking babies. The company provides international statistics only.

Many in the market

About 5 million people in the U.S. are infertile, and half seek treatment to have a baby. Donor eggs are used by about 10 percent of couples in treatment. By law, the use of donor eggs, which can’t be frozen, is reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While there are strict guidelines for screening the health of donor sperm, there are no government mechanisms in place to track use of the sperm, which can be frozen and stored for decades.

Scandinavian Cryobank says it is the first international sperm seller in the U.S. Claus Rodgaard is the manager and chief executive of the company’s two-person Manhattan office. He smiles up at blond, blue-eyed babies, in oversize photos on the walls, who look, well, just like him.

“They are just so damn cute,” he said.

Rodgaard said a person’s choice in a sperm donor is just as personal as his or her attraction to a life partner.

“I don’t think it is an ethical debate at all,” he said. “It is not much different than falling in love. There are thousands of donors in the world, and it is more like natural selection. People shop around and look through donor lists to find someone that appeals to them. It really is so much like real life. It reflects who we are as humans.

“You meet someone. You want to know all about them. Can he cook? Is he sweet? Does he come from a healthy family?”

Scandinavian Cryobank sells sperm in 40 countries, charging the U.S. equivalent of $275 for one injection of potent sperm delivered in a sealed plastic straw. On average, across all age groups, it can take up to 13 straws to conceive a child. In Denmark, there are 250 donors. Some begin donating in their 20s. The cutoff age is 40. The average donor continues in the program for five years and can provide sperm several times a week. They get about $80 a straw.

If their sperm doesn’t sell, they are removed from the donor pool, Rodgaard said. He added that each donor on average is responsible for conceiving 20 to 30 babies throughout the world.

The classic Danish look — tall, slender and athletic with soft facial features, light skin, a small nose, blue eyes, fair hair — is the draw, Rodgaard said. Many donors have blond hair, but an equal number have light brown hair. “Redheads aren’t big sellers,” he added.

While the company charges one price for all donors, a number of U.S. companies charge more for sperm from a donor with a postdoctoral, medical or legal degree.

“Companies are putting a price on what someone does for a living,” said Dr. Daniel Kenigsberg, director of Long Island IVF. “That’s absurd.”

“What is needed is a healthy donor,” said Dr. Jamie Grifo, director of reproductive endocrinology at New York University Medical Center. “There’s no evidence that because some guy made it through college that his offspring will.”

Health remains a key issue. Scandinavian Cryobank keeps track of genetic malformations, and in 2004 reported seven potential problems internationally. Most of the donors were disqualified.

The company also tracks the donor history to ensure one man’s genes aren’t being spread too often in a particular region of the world.

Ethical concerns

That sperm banks are expanding the information on their donors, to include everything from physical traits to personality and temperament, raises a number of issues that infertility specialists and ethicists say must be addressed.

“It’s one thing to chose Danish sperm because that is what the men in your family are like,” Kenigsberg said. “That would be an appropriate sperm donor. But what if the family characteristics are entirely different? There is something creepy about this when people are attempting to have children who are so different from what they are like.”

Added Dr. Robert Klitzman, author of “Moral Secrets: Truth and Lies in the Age of AIDS” and co-director of Columbia University’s Center for Bioethics, “And what if the child doesn’t grow into the Viking he or she is intended to be?”

Klitzman and Kenigsberg think people have the right to identify preferable genetic characteristics and choose from a gene pool close to their ideal.

“But as all parents know, there are no guarantees. An athlete can have a child who is an artist,” Kenigsberg said. “A brilliant parent can have a child of average intelligence. We can all have children who are handicapped. There shouldn’t be an implication that the use of a particular sperm donor will deliver offspring who are superior.”

In Denmark, the only information that can be doled out to clients is the height and weight of the donor, Rodgaard said.

But at the U.S. office of Scandinavian Cryobank, parents-to-be can receive a three-page profile of any donor. They get to know a donor’s resting heart rate, skin tone, hair texture, handedness, shoe size, academic history, favorite life moments, saddest moments, favorite color, eating habits and how much sleep he requires. Personality has its own section, including temperament and the quality of close relationships. A detailed health history includes, of course, genetic diseases.

Columbia’s Klitzman worries about the impact on the children, who may grow up to believe they were selected to be something, or someone, they are not.

And there are few guarantees in the complex world of genetic variation. Blond hair and blue eyes are genetically recessive traits, so an American woman with brown hair and brown eyes will have only a 50 percent chance of having a fair-haired Viking child, even with Danish sperm.

From ad for “Viking” sperm