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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 10:35 GMT
GM activist joins Monsanto's former PR firm
Melchett PA
Melchett the activist: Arrested on a GM protest
Lord Melchett, the former head of Greenpeace, has accepted a job at a PR firm that has represented the genetically-modified (GM) food giant Monsanto.

The environmentalist, who was arrested two years ago for destroying GM crops, is to become a consultant with Burson-Marsteller, the world's largest corporate communications company.


My values have not changed

Lord Melchett
Burson-Marsteller specialises in crisis management and in the past has handled the PR for major companies in trouble over environmental incidents - such as Union Carbide after the Bhopal gas leak which killed up to 15,000 people in India.

Lord Melchett said he will be an adviser in the PR company's social responsibility unit, giving companies pointers on how to deal with controversial issues including environmental protests.

His decision has angered some green campaigners, but Lord Melchett insisted his values had not changed.

The Labour peer said: "I am interested in change for the better, change in government policy and practice and change in commercial - corporate - practice that benefits the environment.
Gas leak Bhopal
One of the casualties in the toxic gas leak in Bhopal

"If I can use my experience to give people advice about what I think should happen and, of course, I have not changed my mind about any of that, if there is the hope, and maybe occasionally the actuality, of change happening then that is to the good."

"I am happy to tell people, just as I did for 15 years with Greenpeace, what I think is right for the environment."

Criticised

But his move was met with scorn by other environmental campaigners.

Mike Woodin, of the Green Party, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Lord Melchett was a man of "very high principles" but that it was difficult to believe that he thought he could change the company's "reprehensible" ethos.

"It seems that he is trying to turn around a very large oil tanker which is sailing in a different direction," he said.

His colleagues at Greenpeace - Lord Melchett is still on the board of Greenpeace International - appear to be supportive of his move.

An internal document Greenpeace sent to its staff told them that Lord Melchett, a former Labour minister and farmer, would not have compromised his beliefs, the Guardian reports.

PR giant

"Peter's advice to companies will be 'go organic, do the right thing', rather than help bad companies avoid the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth," it said.

And Stephen Tisdale, director of Greenpeace UK, told the newspaper: "Anyone who knows Peter will know that he hasn't changed his agenda at all.

"He sees Burson-Marsteller as a conduit to some very influential companies who would not normally talk to environmentalists."

Governments around the world have turned to Burson-Marsteller in times of crisis.

The company represented the Nigerian Government over reports of genocide during the Biafran war and was hired to improve the image of Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu.

The British Government sought the PR giant's help when BSE was discovered.

See also:

26 Sep 00 | UK
The tale of two trials
10 Aug 00 | Sci/Tech
Greenpeace goes for new approach
27 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Greenpeace chief off to new pastures
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