Dan Charles

Dan Charles is an independent writer and radio producer who contributes regularly to NPR's technology coverage. He is currently filling in temporarily as an editor on the National Desk, responsible for coverage of the environment and the western United States. He is author of Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare (Ecco, 2005). He also wrote Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food (Perseus, 2001), about the making of genetically engineered crops. From 1993 to 1999, Charles was a technology correspondent for NPR.

Charles covers a wide swath of advanced technology, including telecommunications, energy, agriculture, computers, and biotechnology. He's reported for NPR from India, Russia, Mexico, and various parts of Western Europe. Before joining NPR, Charles was a U.S. correspondent for New Scientist, a major British science magazine.

He studied economics and international affairs at American University, graduating magna cum laude in 1982. In 1982-83, he studied in Bonn, West Germany, under a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service. He was a guest researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, Germany, in 1986. In 1989-90, he was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Maybe we're too inclined to believe the worst about supermarket food.

How else to explain the reaction to a recent report about honey on the web site Food Safety News? Food Safety News is published by a lawyer who represents plaintiffs in lawsuits against food manufacturers and processors.

Local food is fashionable. Customers are swarming farmers' markets. Organic vegetables sell at a premium. So what's to keep a young, smart, enthusiastic would-be farmer from getting into this business and making a good living?

Allegedly, there's a tsunami washing up on American shores. It originates in Chinese beehives and the American beekeepers who've spotted it are hopping mad.

In 2008, food prices around the world surged and awakened fears – which continue to this day — that the world could re-live the disastrous food shortages of the early 1970s.

Nothing is more basic and simple than food. Yet it comes to us courtesy of a long, complicated supply chain that spans the globe.

That chain delivers food cheaply — but it can break. Four years ago, it blew up in most spectacular fashion, affecting hundreds of millions of people who rely on rice for sustenance. That crash — the great rice crisis of 2008 — was a true disaster for some of the poorest people in Asia and West Africa.