Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett urges Hackney Council to ban Roundup

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher greets fashion designer Katharine Hamnett, wearing at-shirt with a

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher greets fashion designer Katharine Hamnett, wearing at-shirt with a nuclear missile protest message, at 10 Downing Street. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Fashion designer Katharine Hamnett has launched a campaign to ban Roundup pesticide in Hackney, after spotting a council worker spraying pesticide on a wildflower meadow in London Fields, which she has now branded a “death trap”.

Katherine Hamnett

Katherine Hamnett - Credit: Archant

Known for her political T-shirts and ethical business philosophy, Ms Hamnett is “alarmed” at Hackney Council’s use of the chemical weedkiller known generically as glyphosate, which environmentalists want to see banned and is linked to organ damage and infertility.

London fields.

London fields. - Credit: Archant

She has been handing out leaflets in the popular park warning people not to walk or picnic within 100 feet of the wildflower meadow because of the “poison” she says has been sprayed there, and held an emergency meeting to discuss the issues last weekend

Ms Hamnett, 66, who was made a CBE in 2010 for services to the fashion industry, said the issue was one of increasing importance as summer looms, and hundreds of young picnickers will be sitting on the grass near the sprayed areas, where they could potentially absorb the chemical through their skin.

She added: “Sitting on the grass, eating with your hands near an area that has been sprayed with herbicide is the shortest route to ingesting it bar drinking it straight from the bottle.”

Hackney Council came under fire last year when the Gazette revealed it spends £40,000 a year spraying parks and weed-free streets with glyphosate, following a Freedom of Information probe by campaign group Save Lea Marshes.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth (FoE) has raised concerns about glyphosate’s effect on human health, particularly on the endocrine system, and its impact on the environment.

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The product sheet of glyphosate, which is marketed by biotech giant Monsanto as Roundup and is and one of the most widely used herbicides in Europe, states it is toxic to aquatic organisms.

However industry bodies insist there is no evidence the weedkiller is harmful.

Former Friends of the Earth Executive Director Tony Juniper came to the meeting at St Michael and All Angels Church Hall on Saturday, pushing for the issue to be high up on the political agenda ahead of local elections taking place this Thursday.

He was joined by London’s Green Party Member of the European Parliament, Jean Lambert and Pesticides Action Network Director Keith Tyrell.

Mr Juniper said hundreds of cities globally have banned all pesticide use.

Hackney Council defended its use of the pesticide and says it has been declared “safe and environmentally friendly” by government, and is approved for use by the European Union.

A spokesman said: “The gardening staff use glyphosate in the form of “round up pro-bioactive” to control weeds on paths and shrub beds, and in the case of the meadow in order to control the dominant local, more aggressive weeds that colonised the area.

“If these were not removed, it would reduce the chance of the colourful flowers that were intentionally planted from growing.”

A spokesman for Monsanto pointed out that the German governent recently reassessed glyphosate’s safety and said it had “limited toxicity for man, animals and the environment, is not neurotoxic, carcinogenic or mutagenic, is not toxic to reproduction or development, does not have endocrine disrupting properties, is not bio-accumulative or persistent and has minimal toxicity for bees.”

Over 2,500 people have signed Ms Hamnett’s petition calling on the council to stop using Roundup. To see the petition go to