JAPAN'S farm ministry has proposed legislation to protect the 'intellectual copyright' of the country's famous wagyu beef cattle, following concerns that overseas producers are capitalising on years of selective breeding on Japanese farms.

Premium wagyu beef has been gaining in popularity worldwide, and the Japanese government, which is keen to expand exports of the native product, has been seeking to prevent foreign production – but Japan currently has no laws banning people from taking wagyu genetic material out of the country.

The new proposal – in part prompted by the 2018 exposure of an attempt to export fertilized wagyu beef cattle eggs and sperm to China – is for a law enabling injunctions against unauthorized trading, production and export of fertilized eggs and sperm from the breed, and penalties for businesses which obtain and sell materials outwith official channels, as well as third parties who knowingly export such materials.