CODEX Entry 4201: Vampires and blood
Human or animal blood is the fourteenth most traded product on earth. In 2019 human and animal blood exports totaled $201 billion, up 60% in just 3 years. Europe manages 80% of the trade with the two biggest players being Germany and Switzerland, but the US supplies 70% of the raw blood plasma to Europe. Blood exports make up 2.3 percent of US total exports, over US$30 Billion, and 7th ahead of aircraft, oil, soy, corn, computers or gold. It is expected to grow to $44 billion by 2024. In Switzerland, as a raw material for its pharmaceutical industry, it is their third biggest trade business after the drugs themselves and gold.
The bulk of the trade is in blood plasma. Despite blood in most countries being donated, only 20% of plasma ends up in hospitals the rest is sold to the pharmaceutical industry. Organisations such as the Red Cross sell their blood plasma under the veneer of a charitable donation to local hospitals. The UK does now allow US$150 paid-for blood donations for ‘medical trials’. But in the US centres pay between $20 and $50 per donation and ship the plasma to countries like China and the Netherlands for additional processing. European companies like Grifols, Octapharma, and CSL have 700 competing blood clinics in most down and out communities in the US. The US also has fewer restrictions on how often people can donate, allowing twice per week, or US$200 per month. Despite studies show frequent blood and plasma donations damage a donor’s health and 70 percent of donors had experienced negative side effects from giving blood, poor residents rely heavily on regular donations to meet rent and basic necessities. Blood samples, despite being screened or cleaned for infectious diseases like HIV or Hepatitis, still contain high residues of drugs, as many donors are drug addicts who sell their blood to buy drugs. ProPublica released an investigation that revealed thousands of Mexicans are crossing the southern border on temporary visas to sell their plasma. The report revealed the existence of at least 43 donation centers along the border. Employees at five of them provided estimates that as many as 90 percent of their donors were Mexican citizens on temporary visas, many of whom used donating plasma in the United States as their only source of income.
These are known as blood farmers, a phrase first used when the trade was exposed in India. In 2008, 17 people were rescued from a “blood farm” close to India’s border with Nepal. Their blood was extracted 16 times a month. The chances of an HIV patient in India having acquired the virus through blood transfusion are 3,000 times higher than in the US. Blood samples have been found diluted with unfiltered water or saline solution.
Body part trafficking is also rife. The FBI first raided the Biological Resource Center (BRC) in 2014. The raid took place after allegations the facility was selling certain body parts for profit. In hazmat suits the agents raided the facility supposedly for bodies which had been donated to science. According to the testimony of former FBI Assistant Special Agent Mark Cwynar, they found a “cooler filled with male genitalia and buckets of heads, arms and legs”. the FBI team found a woman’s head sewn onto a large male torso hanging on the wall.