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Bovine Genome Patent Down Under

Beef producers in Australia are gearing up to fight a bovine genome patent awarded to US-based Cargill and Branhaven, the Australian Broadcasting Company reports.

The patent, the Australian adds, covers standard cattle genetic selection techniques and would mean that researchers or commercial breeders would have to pay a licensing fee or royalty to Cargill-Branhaven. In particular, the Australian says the patent would prevent researchers or breeders from inserting three or more pieces of bovine DNA to produce cattle such desirable traits as increased disease resistance and fertility or higher milk production and meat marbling.

Rob Banks from the University of New England in New South Wales tells ABC that he couldn't believe that this patent had been granted and that it was overly broad. "It's so general, it's almost like saying 'Oh we'll use something about DNA to work out which animals are the best,' but we've been doing that for decades," he adds.

Meat and Livestock Australia has lodged action in Australian federal court against the patent, ABC notes. In a letter to industry members, MLA chief Richard Norton says that "[a]t a minimum, MLA believes the granting of the patent will ­discourage or hamper industry research into understanding the natural genetic makeup of beef and dairy cattle and the continued progress of Australia's ­national genetic improvement programs," MLA chief Richard Norton writes in a letter to industry members, according to the Australian.