Daniel Charles

Dan Charles is NPR's food and agriculture correspondent.

Primarily responsible for covering farming and the food industry, Charles focuses on the stories of culture, business, and the science behind what arrives on your dinner plate.

This is his second time working for NPR; from 1993 to 1999, Charles was a technology correspondent at NPR. He returned in 2011.

During his time away from NPR, Charles was an independent writer and radio producer and occasionally filled in at NPR on the Science and National desks, and at Weekend Edition. Over the course of his career Charles has reported on software engineers in India, fertilizer use in China, dengue fever in Peru, alternative medicine in Germany, and efforts to turn around a troubled school in Washington, DC.

In 2009-2010, he taught journalism in Ukraine through the Fulbright program. He has been guest researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, Germany, and a Knight Science Journalism fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From 1990 to 1993, Charles was a U.S. correspondent for New Scientist, a major British science magazine.

The author of two books, Charles wrote Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, The Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare (Ecco, 2005) and Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food (Perseus, 2001) about the making of genetically engineered crops.

Charles graduated magna cum laude from American University with a degree in economics and international affairs. After graduation Charles spent a year studying in Bonn, which was then part of West Germany, through the German Academic Exchange Service.

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The Salt
1:40 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

Coconut Conservationist Seeks Pacific Islands For Fun And Palm Preservation

The diversity of coconut trees like these planted along the beach in the northern Philippines is in danger, but a French scientist has a plan.
Jay Directo AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 7:59 am

French adventurer-scientist Roland Bourdeix has a grand, almost surreal, vision for how to preserve a thousand or more genetic varieties of coconut trees. Imagine, as he does, turning dozens or hundreds of remote Pacific islands into coconut sanctuaries. Each island would contain just a few varieties of these trees. No others would be allowed, because the whole point of this exercise is to prevent uncontrolled mixing of genes from different varieties.

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The Salt
4:06 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

EPA Says Its Ethanol Rules Aren't Driving Up Food Prices

A sign on the pump advertises the ethanol content of the gasoline as a motorist reaches for the gas pump in his truck at a filling station in Bellmead, Texas.
LM Otero AP

Originally published on Sun November 18, 2012 2:47 pm

The ethanol industry is happy with the Environmental Protection Agency today. If you're worried about the price of meat, though, you may not be so pleased.

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The Salt
3:41 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

You Can Thank A Whey Refinery For That Protein Smoothie

Tim Opper, of Cabot Cheese, inspects equipment that separates whey protein from sugar in the company's whey processing plant.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 8:52 am

If you've ever checked the ingredient list on a PowerBar or a high-protein smoothie, you probably have stumbled across these words: "Whey protein concentrate." You'll find it in a growing number of prepared foods.

This mysterious ingredient is derived from one of the oldest of human foods — milk. But capturing it requires huge factories that look more like oil refineries than farms.

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The Salt
11:03 am
Fri October 19, 2012

Sugar Beet Labor Battles Spill Out Onto The National Stage

Supporters of American Crystal Sugar Co. workers, who have been locked out of the company's sugar beet processing plants since 2011, rally in the North Dakota Capitol.
Dale Wetzel AP

It's not just nutritionists who have a problem with sugar these days, so does organized labor. The AFL-CIO is calling for a boycott of one the country's biggest sugar producers, the American Crystal Sugar Company, based in Moorhead, Minn.

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The Salt
10:53 am
Thu October 18, 2012

Top Five Myths Of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted

Central Illinois corn and soybean farmer Gary Niemeyer readies his genetically modified seed corn for spring planting at his farm near Auburn, Ill.
Seth Perlman AP

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 4:49 pm

Having just stepped into the shouting match over patents on genetically engineered crops, there are a few small things that I, too, would like to get off my chest.

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The Salt
11:02 am
Tue October 16, 2012

Farmer Tackling Monsanto's Seed Policy Gets A Day In Supreme Court

Many folks protest Monsanto's business practices, like this Greenpeace protester spraying paint on a company research soybean field in Iowa.
John Gaps III AP

Originally published on Wed February 13, 2013 9:57 am

Why do so many people hate Monsanto?

Is it because this multinational corporation pioneered some enormously successful genetically engineered crops, including corn, soybeans and cotton?

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The Salt
3:23 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

How A Sleepy Pennsylvania Town Grew Into America's Mushroom Capital

Four hundred million pounds of mushrooms come from farms in Chester County, Pa.
Eliza Barclay NPR

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 4:13 pm

Here's an astonishing fact: Half of America's mushrooms are grown in one tiny corner of southeastern Pennsylvania, near the town of Kennett Square.

But why? It's not as though this place has some special advantage of climate or soil, the kind of thing that led to strawberry fields in Watsonville, Calif., or peach orchards in Georgia. Mushrooms can grow indoors. They could come from anywhere.

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The Salt
7:03 am
Mon October 8, 2012

Honey, The Americans Shrank The Apple Trees

American apple growers realized that if they used dwarfing rootstocks and planted their trees closer together, they could increase their harvest of apples per acre by 200 to 300 percent.
Catalin Petolea iStockphoto.com

When Zarrina Mulloboeva got invited to go apple picking the other day, she thought it would be a taste of home. She's an exchange student from Tajikistan, in central Asia — a country close to the ancestral homeland of apples. Her uncle has a small orchard. In fact, when Mulloboeva came to the United States six weeks ago, she brought with her a large bottle of homemade dried apple slices.

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The Salt
2:15 am
Fri October 5, 2012

In Haiti, Aid Groups Squabble Over Rival Peanut Butter Factories

Alex E. Proimos Flickr.com

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 3:00 pm

Can there be too much life-saving peanut butter?

In Haiti, two different humanitarian groups have built new factories to make this product, which is used to treat severe malnutrition and maybe someday prevent it. The problem is, Haiti doesn't appear to need two of them. Each factory, all by itself, could satisfy Haiti's current demand.

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The Salt
12:25 pm
Thu October 4, 2012

The Cost Of Saving Lives With Local Peanuts In Haiti

Alex E. Proimos flickr

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 3:05 pm

How much extra would you pay for local food? It's a familiar question. We face it practically every time we shop for groceries, either at the store or at the farmers market. But what about food that can save the lives of severely malnourished children?

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Shots - Health Blog
2:43 am
Thu October 4, 2012

The Peanut Butter Cure Moves From Hospital To Snack Room

Renande Raphael, aged 16 months, is measured to check whether she is growing normally. As part of a new trial, she's receiving an extra daily snack of enriched peanut butter.
Alex E. Proimos via flickr

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 9:19 am

Just over a decade ago, a French doctor invented a treatment for severely malnourished children that had a revolutionary, life-saving impact.

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The Salt
4:18 pm
Mon September 24, 2012

Lawsuit Claims Pork Producers Council Scammed $60 Million From Farmers

"The Other White Meat" slogan has been a popular promotion for pork since the 1980s. But a recent lawsuit raises questions about who owns it and who pays.
ugod Flickr.com

You know that ad campaign for pork, the one that called it "the other white meat?" There's a fascinating behind-the-scenes story about that slogan, revealed in a new lawsuit that was just filed this morning by the Humane Society of the United States.

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The Salt
9:16 am
Thu September 20, 2012

As Scientists Question New Rat Study, GMO Debate Rages On

Italian farmer Giorgio Fidenato picks up what's left of his genetically altered corn after anti-GMO activists trampled it, back in 2010.
Paolo Giovannini AP

The headlines on the press releases that started showing up yesterday, here at The Salt certainly got our attention. Just one sample: "BREAKING NEWS: New Study Links Genetically Engineered Food to Tumors."

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The Salt
9:10 am
Fri September 14, 2012

How African Cattle Herders Wiped Out An Ancient Plague

Scientist Robert Koch holding a post-mortem on an ox thought to have died of rinderpest, circa 1900.
Reinhold Thiele Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 1:45 pm

Twice in all of history, humans have managed to eradicate a devastating disease. You've heard of the first one, I suspect: smallpox. But rinderpest?

That's a German word for "cattle plague" a feared companion of cattle throughout history. When outbreaks occurred, as in Europe of the 1700s or Africa in the 1880s, entire herds were wiped out and communities went hungry. Now the disease is gone, eliminated from the face of the earth.

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The Salt
3:56 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

On the Farmers Market Frontier, It's Not Just About Profit

On a corner in Washington, D.C., where stores burned during riots 44 years ago, there's now a plaza where farmers sell produce on Saturday mornings.
Dan Charles/NPR

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 9:30 am

Farmers markets are popping up in cities all across the country, and people expect lots of different things from them: Better food, of course, but also economic development and even friendlier neighborhoods.

At its core, though, the farmers market is a business, and it won't survive unless the farmer makes money.

So what's the key to success for these markets?

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The Salt
1:09 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

So, Who Sent Those Sick Cows To The Slaughterhouse?

A security guard opens the gate at the Central Valley Meat Co., the California slaughterhouse recently shut down by federal regulators after they received a graphic video of cows being mistreated.
Gosia Wozniacka AP

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 10:00 am

Federal regulators and fast-food companies reacted with unprecedented speed this week to the release of an undercover video that animal-rights activists shot inside a California slaughterhouse. The video — which, we'll warn you, is pretty graphic — shows employees of Central Valley Meat Co. using electric prods repeatedly on cattle that appeared unable to get to their feet.

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The Salt
2:24 am
Tue August 21, 2012

How A Biofuel Dream Called Jatropha Came Crashing Down

A man harvests fruits of the Jatropha tree in Taabo, Ivory Coast. Jatropha, which is grown in many parts of the world, has fallen from favor as a diesel fuel substitute.
Kambou Sia AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 9:37 am

From Congress to The Colbert Report, people are talking about the Midwestern drought and debating whether it makes sense to convert the country's shrinking corn supplies into ethanol to power our cars.

It's the latest installment of the long-running food vs. fuel battle.

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The Salt
2:34 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

Saving Lives In Africa With The Humble Sweet Potato

Sweet potato evangelist Maria Isabel Andrade from the International Potato Center drives around Mozambique in her orange Toyota Land Cruiser.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 10:26 am

A regular old orange-colored sweet potato might not seem too exciting to many of us.

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The Salt
2:40 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Secret Side Of The Drought: Many Corn Farmers Will Benefit

President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (second from right) inspect drought-damaged corn on the McIntosh farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 10:28 am

You've all heard a lot about this year's devastating drought in the Midwest, right? The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last Friday that the average U.S. cornfield this year will yield less per acre than it has since 1995. Soybean yields are down, too.

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The Salt
1:09 pm
Wed August 8, 2012

Here's Where Farms Are Sucking The Planet Dry

Check out some of the world's most important - and threatened - aquifers. Click to see a high-resolution version of this map.
Nature

Originally published on Wed August 8, 2012 4:49 pm

This map is disturbing, once you understand it. It's a new attempt to visualize an old problem — the shrinking of underground water reserves, in most cases because farmers are pumping out water to irrigate their crops.

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Environment
6:28 am
Thu July 26, 2012

In Drought-Stricken Midwest, It's Fodder Vs. Fuel

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 9:35 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

In the Midwest, the drought is doing a number on the nation's biggest agricultural crop, corn. The USDA says half of the country's cornfields are in poor or very poor condition, and the short supply is driving up the price. Now, a fight between livestock farmers and ethanol producers over the high priced corn crop. Farmers say ethanol factories have an unfair advantage.

NPR's Dan Charles reports.

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The Salt
2:39 pm
Wed July 25, 2012

Meat Producers And, Ultimately, Consumers Hurt By Drought

These piglets on the Hardin farm in Danville, Ind., are going to cost more to feed than they will fetch at market.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 5:13 pm

Despite headlines about the crushing drought that's afflicting much of the country's prime agricultural land, the USDA isn't expecting any dramatic increases in the price of food this year or next.

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The Salt
4:19 pm
Thu July 19, 2012

As Drought Kills Corn, Farmers Fight Over Ethanol

Stunted corn grows in a field next to a cattle feed lot in rural Springfield, Omaha, Neb.
Nati Harnik AP

We often talk about the "farm lobby" as though farmers spoke with a unified voice. And it's true, they usually try to.

But an unusually bitter and public fight is breaking out right now between the farmers who grow corn and other farmers who need to buy that corn.

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Food
3:25 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

Mozambique Farmland Is Prize In Land Grab Fever

Young boys thresh soybeans by hand in Ruasse.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 2:37 pm

First of a two-part series. Read part 2.

In these days of financial uncertainty, the hot new investment tip is farmland.

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The Salt
1:24 pm
Wed April 11, 2012

FDA Launches Voluntary Plan To Reduce Use Of Antibiotics In Animals

The FDA's latest effort to end the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animals is getting mixed reviews from activists.
Rob Carr AP

Originally published on Thu April 12, 2012 5:38 am

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said today it is calling on the nation's pork, beef, and poultry producers to reduce their use of antibiotics. But some watchdog groups say this voluntary guidance doesn't go nearly far enough.

The issue has been contentious for decades. Just last month, a federal judge ruled that the FDA had to go ahead with a plan it proposed in 1977 that would ban the use of some antibiotics as a growth promoter in animals.

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