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Japan eyes tough penalties for illegal wagyu gene sales

TOKYO >> Foreign trade in genetic material of Japan’s wagyu cattle would become subject to criminal prosecution under a new law that the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry intends to establish. It imposes legal penalties on those who illegally obtain or transfer genetic resources of wagyu cattle, such as sperm or fertilized eggs, to third parties without authorization.

The government planned to submit the bill last month.

In the past year, three men who attempted to smuggle genetic resources from Osaka to Shanghai have been convicted of violating laws that included the Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control Law. But there is no law that directly controls the outflow of genetic resources.

Under the new law, businesses that use deceit to obtain genetic resources from livestock farmers and other owners, or that transfer the genetic resources to a third party without authorization, will face criminal punishment. The law will also penalize those who export genetic resources to other countries, with criminal intent.

In addition, the ministry will preemptively ban the resale, use or export of genetic resources.

The ministry is considering whether the new law will extend to wagyu cattle created through the misuse of such resources.

The ministry also aims to revise a law, tied to the improvement and increased production of livestock, that will allow it to call on genetic resource brokers to tighten distribution control.

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