CUSTOMS authorities in Shanghai have detained a man attempting to smuggle prized Japanese Wagyu cattle genetics into the country, the Japanese wire agency Jiji Press has reported.
The man was detained at Shanghai airport with frozen Wagyu cattle embryos, removed illegally from Japan.
Japanese Agriculture Minister Takamori Yoshikawa said his office was taking steps to file a criminal complaint against the unidentified man, explaining that Japan had strict laws forbidding the export of live Wagyu cattle, as well as their genetic material including semen and embryos.
The minister suggested this is the first case of Wagyu genetic smuggling to occur in Japan in at least a decade, although he admitted that the practice was both incredibly easy and nearly impossible to prevent.
The only reason the man was caught, Minister Yoshikawa told Jiji Press, was because his container of fertilised Wagyu eggs “must have been easy to spot.”
The Japanese people consider Wagyu national treasures, and smuggling their genetics outside the country would be considered the equivalent of stealing national defence secrets.
Rumours of transfer of Wagyu genetic material out of Japan into China have been common in the past few years, however, since China started showing an interest in producing its own Wagyu cattle.
In the late 1970s, four Japanese Wagyu bulls were given to the US state of Hawaii as a gift.
About 300 Fullblood Japanese Black Wagyu left Japan for the US the 1990s, but export of Wagyu cattle and genetics has been banned since then. All Wagyu bred in Australia and the US are descendants of those 300 animals, with no further genetic material being made available from Japan in the past 30 years.
The majority of Wagyu cattle in China have been imported from Fullblood breeders in Australia and the United States, Beef Central was told.