Japan's farm ministry on Monday proposed legislation to protect the intellectual property in fertilized eggs and sperm taken from Japan's famous wagyu beef cattle as concerns grow about overseas breeding efforts.

The envisioned law allows for injunctions against unauthorized trading, production and export and will penalize business operators who obtain and sell materials without following required procedures as well as third parties who knowingly export such materials.

The move comes after an attempt to export fertilized wagyu beef cattle eggs and sperm to China came to light in 2018.

The premium Japanese beef has been gaining popularity overseas, and the government, which is keen to expand exports, has been seeking to prevent foreign production of a product that Japanese farmers have molded through years of selective breeding.

Japan so far has had no laws banning people from taking genetic materials from wagyu cattle overseas.

The planned law will allow for an injunction to be requested when it is suspected genetic materials are to be used for breeding purposes after export. It also sets a guideline to calculate the size of damages that can be awarded when a breach is discovered.

In June last year, the government compiled steps against smuggling, including requiring the keeping of records of trade in fertilized eggs and sperm.

Both bills are expected to be submitted during the current Diet session.

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