The agriculture ministry will propose a new law aimed at preventing the smuggling to other countries of genetic materials, such as fertilized eggs and semen, related to wagyu cattle.

The envisioned law allows requests for injunctions against improper trading of such genetic materials and, if deemed malicious, imposes criminal penalties.

The legislation is designed to protect the premium Japanese beef, which has grown popular in the United States, Europe and Asia, and to encourage exports of the meat.

The ministry plans to submit a bill to an ordinary session of the Diet, which started Monday.

The new law will define the genetic features of wagyu, which Japanese farmers have been breeding over many years, as intellectual property, and will allow injunctions against reselling, siphoning and breeding them without proper contracts.

The regulation comes after an attempt to smuggle a massive amount of fertilized eggs for wagyu cattle into China came to light in 2018.

As breeding outside Japan will harm exports by Japanese breeders, farmers have been calling for a measure to prevent the smuggling of wagyu genetic materials abroad, which is effectively unregulated.

Moreover, unlike plant breeding, Japan does not have a rule protecting wagyu breeders’ rights to the outcomes of breeding.

The ministry is also considering allowing people to seek injunctions against the trading of calves raised from fertilized eggs and semen that were acquired improperly.

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