AWA Clarifies Member Rights to Wagyu DNA

Member ownership of Wagyu livestock DNA, test results and related intellectual property (IP) rights have been enshrined in recent changes to Australian Wagyu Association (AWA) bylaws.

AWA CEO Dr Matt McDonagh says “progressive changes to testing requirements for herdbook registration have been needed to keep pace with rapidly advancing technology.  With these changes, the complexity of the genotype data has increased, as has the potential to add value to data for the benefit of both members and the breed.”

The AWA Board believes that Sample and DNA testing result ownership should remain with the member. To deliver this, the Board has commissioned a perpetual right of access legal agreement to member-owned livestock data and samples.  This ensures that the AWA can secure its core member resources, the AWA Herdbook and Wagyu BREEDPLAN analyses.

The AWA understands that tissue and hair samples may be exhausted by members through their own testing such that continued sample availability may not be possible.

Previous agreements

Under previous agreements, standard DNA testing supplier contracts delivered ownership of all results and related IP to AWA.

The Association has now responded to increasing global awareness of the value of DNA and related data in agriculture by ensuring that all contracts with DNA testing suppliers are uniform in delivering all IP and sample ownership rights to AWA in the first instance, with the significant change that the Association then re-assigns ownership back to members, simply retaining the perpetual right of access essential for the maintenance of herdbook and Wagyu BREEDPLAN integrity.

“We are simplifying a legally complex issue,” Dr McDonagh explains.  “Historically, the AWA has provided the economic incentive to both local and global scientific organisations capable of providing the DNA testing services that all Wagyu breeders need to maintain breed integrity. In the majority of cases, the Association is then the commercial interface for the testing process.”

“Prior to the recent AWA bylaw changes, DNA supplier testing contracts allocated all IP and the ownership of samples to AWA, as the contracting customer.   Wagyu breeders operating outside this umbrella on the basis of informal DNA testing relationships are often not protected at this level, and rights may be retained by the DNA test suppliers”.

“For those breeders now working through the Association, this change is a significant improvement in ownership rights.”


“It is imperative to Australian Wagyu pedigree accuracy and local Wagyu livestock values that we use the latest generation of technology, which is now SNP,” says McDoangh, “and equally important that we then have ongoing access to state-of-the-art DNA tests that link the current national herd to the Wagyu foundation nucleus exported from Japan.  The advent of SNP has recently demanded a new generation of DNA supplier contracts, and this transition has coincided with the rise of global interest in the related area of agricultural IP. ”

According to Dr McDonagh, the recent by-law changes are a specific recognition of this current global DNA IP ownership discussion in agriculture.

Since commencement in the early 1990s, AWA has been the Australian beef cattle breed leader in the compulsory use of molecular science for parent verification through succeeding generations of DNA testing technologies.