Founded in 1996 by animal rights activist and philanthropist Helaine Lerner, the New York City-based Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE) is a non-profit advocacy group concerned with two issues: factory farming and nuclear weapons. GRACE aspires to eliminate both.
GRACE's Factory Farm Project, headed by Dr. William J. Weida, a liberal economist who has denigrated the Environmental Protection Agency as the "Environmental Pollution Agency," has one objective: to discredit factory farming as a salutary means of food production, with the implicit intention of eliminating it altogether. To this end, the initiative offers a variety of community outreach programs aimed at exciting grassroots opposition to factory farms among disaffected farmers and leftist activists.
GRACE alleges, "In farming communities dominated by large corporate farms, nearby towns died off. Where family farms predominate, there are more local businesses, paved streets, schools, parks, churches, clubs, newspapers, better services, higher employment, and more civic participation." To corroborate this assertion, GRACE invokes a study by the Oakland, California-based think tank Food First—which in turn offers no empirical evidence for the charge.
Similar disinformation marks GRACE's campaign to finger corporate farms as the source of mad cow disease. In laying out its case against factory farms, GRACE contends that, owing to their bigger size, these farms pose a health threat to consumers. GRACE's President, the anti-nuclear activist Alice Slater, argued in a January 2004 press release that the sheer size of factory farms makes it unlikely that they will maintain rigorous health standards, thereby heightening the risk of outbreaks of farm-based ailments like mad cow disease. Apart from their lack of evidence, Slater's charges omitted the fact that family farms, with their limited resources, have far more difficulty meeting stringent government standards for food safety. Also absent from the press release was any mention of health epidemics that originated on small farms, such as the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001, which was traced to a family-owned farm in Britain.
GRACE also trains its advocacy against nuclear weapons. Through an initiative called the Nuclear Abolition Project, GRACE, a member of the anti-nuclear network Abolition 2000, works to eliminate such weapons and "provides technical support to grassroots activists living in the shadow of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex." (A key member of the GRACE Advisory Committee is David Krieger, a founding member of Abolition 2000 and the founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.) Topping GRACE's list of grievances in this regard is the national missile defense project. The activist group has demanded its immediate halt and pressed for its rollback. GRACE is also a member of the Peace and Security Funders Group, whose constituents finance anti-war and environmentalist causes.
In addition, GRACE is a member of the Green Hydrogen Coalition, a network of leftist lobbying groups focused on assailing the support of the U.S. government for the coal and nuclear industries, what the GHC tars as “a black hydrogen agenda.”
GRACE was a signatory to a May 30, 2000 document denouncing globalization generally and the World Trade Organization (WTO) in particular. It also endorsed a 2003 "Our World is Not for Sale" campaign similarly condemning the WTO. In addition, the organization endorsed a document called the Earth Charter, which blames capitalism for many of the world's environmental, social, and economic problems. The Charter maintains that "the dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor is widening."
GRACE welds its two fixations—farming and nuclear energy—together in its opposition to irradiation as a food-treatment process. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sponsored studies showing that irradiation reduces and eliminates disease-causing germs and expands the shelf-life of food without altering its nutritional value, but the website of GRACE’s Nuclear Abolition Project carries the following warning: "The commercialization of irradiation anticipated by the food industry means new facilities, an increase in worker exposure to hazardous radioactivity, additional threats to safety from the transportation of nuclear materials and the production of greater volumes of nuclear waste, for which no safe disposal system is in place. In addition, food irradiation facilities house the low-level radioactive material that terrorists seek to make dirty bombs."
Between 2000 and 2003, GRACE's founder, Helaine Lerner, gave more than $7 million to the organization through her New York-based Tamarind Foundation, also known as the Helaine Heilbrunn Lerner Fund.