LONDON, January 8—The former head of Greenpeace and the architect of its campaign against genetically modified crops in Europe is joining Burson-Marsteller where he will lead a committee advising companies on how to deal with controversial issues and may also provide advice on how to deal with protests like those he led in his previous position.
Lord Melchett has been a high-profile opponent of genetically modified foods and was arrested two years ago after leading an attack on a field of GM crops.
London newspapers reported that Melchett’s decision to join the international PR firms caused “unease” among his former colleagues at Greenpeace, although he asked permission of the organization’s new head, Stephen Tisdale, before accepting the position, and Tindale said he was confident the Eton-educated peer would not compromise his ideals. “He sees Burson-Marsteller as a conduit to some very influential companies who would not normally talk to environmentalists. In some ways Greenpeace held him back, and he has become more radical after leaving last year.”
Burson-Marsteller’s client list includes several large companies that have been targeted by environmental groups, including Monsanto, and Melchett told The Independent newspaper that he would be prepared to engage in dialogue with the high-profile GM food giant but “I am not going to change my stance GM food is a technology that has no future. The environmental villains are the people we want to change or stop.”
Other activists questioned the Labour Party peer’s decision, however. “How can you have a man who is on the board of Greenpeace International and a policy adviser to the Soil Association taking money from the GM industry and companies with some of the worst records imaginable,” asked environmental activist Kate Jones.
But Melchett is not the first activist to cross over to the corporate side, although the trend is more pronounced in Europe than in the U.S. At B-M he will join Richard Aylard, a former head of the Soil Association, which promotes organic food and farming and sustainable forestry, and Gavin Grant, former head of communications for The Body Shop. Former Greenpeace public relations chief Jonathan Wootliff, meanwhile, joined Edelman Public Relations Worldwide two years ago.