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British GM plant biologist receives Chinese honour

Professor who helped create UKs first GM food rewarded for his contribution to science and agriculture in China

British GM plant biologist receives Chinese honour

Don Grierson

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A British plant biologist involved in the creation of a gentically modified tomato in the 1980s has been awarded one of China’s highest academic honours for his contribution to science.

Retired professor Don Grierson, who spent over 40 years at the University of Nottingham, has been made a foreign member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

He was awarded the prestigious honour in recognition of his international work in plant biology that has spanned four decades, as well as his ongoing contribution to the enhancement of agricultural and plant science in China.

In the 1980s his laboratory was involved in creating a genetically modified tomato, which softened and deteriorated more slowly. A tomato puree made from these tomatoes was the first genetically modified food to be sold in the UK and approved for sale on both sides of the Atlantic.

His work also focused on deciphering the regulation of fruit ripening at a molecular level, and the discovery and use of how RNA molecules inhibit gene expression in plants.

Professor Grierson said: “I feel very honoured to receive this recognition, working in China gives me the opportunity to continue my involvement in science and it is great fun working with clever, committed people.

“China’s scientific influence is developing very fast and it’s an exciting time to be involved in research here. With a strong work ethic from students, experienced and ambitious academics and buoyant funding there is a bright future for scientific research in China.”

New academics are selected for the Chinese Academy of Engineering fellowship every two years from academic institutions, research institutes, enterprises and hospitals, both inside and outside China.

Selection is based on their contribution to the development of, or role in promoting China’s engineering, science, agriculture and technology.     

Grierson spent over 40 years at the University of Nottingham where he was the founding head of the School of Biosciences before becoming pro-vice-chancellor from 2003 to 2007.

In recent years Professor Grierson has worked with a number of Chinese scientists, helping them to establish strong research groups in molecular plant biology.

Since he started regular visits to China six years ago, Grierson has published over 25 papers in international journals with Chinese colleagues and has helped write and edit an additional 30 papers.

He is now a part-time professor at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, and a visiting professor at Shanxi Agricultural University in Taigu, Shanxi Province.

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