Gentlemen: are you feeling unnecessary? Useless? Superfluous? Irrelevant? You might be, after the recent announcement that scientists in Newcastle, England, have created human sperm from embryonic stem cells. The research team has already created baby mice from such cells. While the sperm are not fully functional yet, they will eventually be useful for understanding male infertility. Obviously they could also be useful for fertilizing eggs and creating baby humans, although this is illegal at present in the U.K. - which will make men unnecessary even for semen, as we are currently unnecessary (though convenient and cheap) for conception.
And, gentlemen, that is not all. A recent study published in Science of the Total Environment reports that at least 50 chemical compounds used in packaging are capable of interfering with hormones by leaching into the food supply. These include bisphenol A (BPA), which mimics estrogen, and phthalates, which block the production of testosterone. Toxic chemical food contamination is feminizing men, though how much is not clear.
The alarm was raised last year by the CBC documentary "The Disappearing Male." Researchers reported that sperm counts have been halved in the last 50 years, most of the remaining sperm is abnormal, male genital defects have increased 200% in the last 20 years, and male birth rates have declined steadily every year in more than 20 industrialized countries. Pollution as well as ingested chemicals are thought to be responsible. The new male is disappearing.
Further information is presented by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie in Slow Death by Rubber Duck (Knopf, 2009) which follows the first alarm about pollution in Rachel Carson's Silent Spring (1962). Neither deal explicitly with men. Everything is affected by our increasingly toxic environments, as we know: air, water, temperature, worms, duck, men, women and children. Men especially it seems.
So it appears that men are about to be replaced by lab productions at the same time as we are simultaneously disappearing and being feminized by chemical compounds and pollution.
What is the new man to do?
Perhaps consider that in a few more years researchers will be able to create eggs from stem cell embryos to go with the sperm, so women too will become increasingly unnecessary, useless, superfluous and irrelevant in the conception process, while at the same time they are being further chemically feminized: a process that may already have started with earlier menarche.
In the future, then, we will all be increasingly feminine and unnecessary for conception, while the new men disappear and become increasingly infertile. Who knew?