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.

Pages

1:49pm

Thu October 3, 2013
The Salt

Why Lots Of Grass-Fed Beef Sold In U.S. Comes From Down Under

Originally published on Tue October 8, 2013 1:24 pm

Patricia Whisnant, who runs Rain Crow Ranch in Doniphan, Mo., says her grass-fed beef can compete with the Australian product because it has a better story American consumers can connect with.
Courtesy of Rain Crow Ranch

Beef from cattle that have grazed only on pasture is in high demand — much to the surprise of many meat retailers, who didn't traditionally think of grass-fed beef as top-quality.

George Siemon, a founder of Organic Valley, the big organic food supplier, says the push for grass-fed beef started with activists who wanted to challenge a beef industry dominated by factory-scale feedlots. In those feedlots, cattle are fed a corn-heavy diet designed to make the animals gain weight as quickly as possible.

Read more

3:48pm

Thu September 19, 2013
The Salt

Making Food From Flies (It's Not That Icky)

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 8:14 pm

Black soldier flies mate and lay eggs inside these cages at EnviroFlight.
Dan Charles NPR

In the quirky little college town of Yellow Springs, Ohio, home to many unconventional ideas over the years, there's now a small insect factory.

It's an unassuming operation, a generic boxy building in a small industrial park. It took me a while even to find a sign with the company's name: EnviroFlight. But its goal is grand: The people at EnviroFlight are hoping that their insects will help our planet grow more food while conserving land and water.

Read more

12:23pm

Tue September 17, 2013
The Salt

Golden Rice Study Violated Ethical Rules, Tufts Says

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 5:30 pm

Genetically modified to be enriched with beta-carotene, golden rice grains (left) are a deep yellow. At right, white rice grains.
Isagani Serrano International Rice Research Institute

Tufts University announced Tuesday that one of its researchers broke ethical rules while carrying out a study of genetically modified "golden rice" in China.

Read more

2:01am

Tue September 17, 2013
The Salt

American Farmers Say They Feed The World, But Do They?

Originally published on Thu September 19, 2013 5:30 pm

A cornfield is shrouded in mist at sunrise in rural Springfield, Neb.
Nati Harnik AP

When critics of industrial agriculture complain that today's food production is too big and too dependent on pesticides, that it damages the environment and delivers mediocre food, there's a line that farmers offer in response: We're feeding the world.

It's high-tech agriculture's claim to the moral high ground. Farmers say they farm the way they do to produce food as efficiently as possible to feed the world.

Read more

3:36pm

Mon September 16, 2013
The Salt

CDC: Deadliest Drug Resistance Comes From Hospitals, Not Farms

Originally published on Mon September 16, 2013 4:29 pm

These pigs in Iowa, newly weaned from their mothers, get antibiotics in their water to ward off bacterial infection.
Dan Charles NPR

Here at The Salt, we've been following the controversies that surround antibiotic use on the farm. Farmers give these drugs to chickens, swine and beef cattle, either to keep the animals healthy or to make them grow faster. Critics say it's contributing to an epidemic of drug-resistant bacteria not just on the farm, but among people, too.

Read more

5:01pm

Thu August 29, 2013
The Salt

Antibiotic Use On The Farm: Are We Flying Blind?

Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 4:26 pm

Piglets in a pen on a hog farm in Frankenstein, Mo.
Jeff Roberson AP

There's a heated debate over the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Critics say farmers overuse these drugs; farmers say they don't.

Read more

2:21am

Tue August 27, 2013
The Salt

Turning Off The Spigot In Western Kansas Farmland

Originally published on Tue August 27, 2013 1:49 pm

An irrigation pivot waters a corn field in Nebraska. Many farmers in Nebraska and Kansas rely on irrigation to water their corn fields. But the underground aquifer they draw from will run dry.
Nati Harnik AP

Across the High Plains, many farmers depend on underground stores of water, and they worry about wells going dry. A new scientific study of western Kansas lays out a predicted timeline for those fears to become reality. But it also shows an alternative path for farming in Kansas: The moment of reckoning can be delayed, and the impact softened, if farmers start conserving water now.

Read more

5:07pm

Wed August 21, 2013
The Salt

Inside The Beef Industry's Battle Over Growth-Promotion Drugs

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 3:39 pm

Beef cattle stand in a barn on the Larson Farms feedlot in Maple Park, Ill.
Daniel Acker Landov

When the drug company Merck Animal Health announced plans to suspend sales of its Zilmax feed additive last week, many observers were shocked.

Yet concern about Zilmax and the class of growth-promotion drugs called beta agonists has been building for some time. In an interesting twist, the decisive pressure on Zilmax did not come from animal welfare groups or government regulators: It emerged from within the beef industry itself, and from academic experts who have long worked as consultants to the industry.

Read more

5:07pm

Thu August 15, 2013
The Salt

Can Quinoa Farming Go Global Without Leaving Andeans Behind?

Originally published on Fri August 16, 2013 2:53 pm

A man cleans quinoa grain in Pacoma, Bolivia.
Juan Karita AP

I ate quinoa-and-turkey chili in a cafeteria today, which, when you think about it, is pretty amazing. Rarely does an entire culture, almost overnight, adopt an entirely new food.

Read more

3:22pm

Tue August 13, 2013
The Salt

Chipotle Is Keeping Its Meat Antibiotic-Free After All

Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 4:26 pm

For a few hours Tuesday, it appeared that Chipotle Mexican Grill, an ever expanding source of fast food for the ethically conscious consumer, had softened its hard line against antibiotics in meat production.

Read more

9:49am

Tue August 13, 2013
The Salt

Why Urban Beekeeping Can Be Bad For Bees

Originally published on Thu August 15, 2013 4:27 pm

Beehive designer Johannes Paul (right) and Natural England's ecologist Peter Massini, with a brood frame colonized with bees from the "beehaus" beehive on the roof of his house in London in 2009.
Sang Tan AP

Two British scientists are dumping cold water on campaigns to promote urban beekeeping. They say that trying to "help the bees" by setting out more hives is naive and misguided if the bees can't find enough flowers nearby to feed on. You'll just end up with sick and starving bees.

Read more

4:01pm

Thu August 1, 2013
The Salt

What Poisoned Pomegranates Tell Us About Food Safety

Originally published on Thu August 1, 2013 4:48 pm

The label for the berry blend recalled in June because of pomegranates linked to a hepatitis A outbreak.
Food and Drug Administration

Imported food is getting the kind of attention these days that no product wants. Health officials in Iowa and Nebraska are blaming salad greens for making hundreds of people sick with a parasite called cyclospora. That parasite usually comes from the tropics, so it's likely the salad did, too. Earlier this summer, pomegranate seeds from Turkey were linked to an outbreak of hepatitis A.

Read more

10:59am

Thu July 25, 2013
The Salt

The FDA Doesn't Want Chickens To Explore The Great Outdoors

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 2:51 pm

Free-range chickens feed in a pasture on an organic farm in Illinois.
Seth Perlman AP

Organic egg farmers are divided in their reaction to a new FDA proposal that's intended to reduce the risk of salmonella infection among free-roaming chickens. They even disagree about what the document, called "Guidance for Industry," actually requires.

Read more

2:00am

Wed July 17, 2013
The Salt

In Oregon, The GMO Wheat Mystery Deepens

Originally published on Thu July 18, 2013 3:34 pm

Wheat grows in a test field at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Some scientists believe that there's a chance that genetically modified wheat found in one farmer's field in May is still in the seed supply.
Natalie Behring Bloomberg via Getty Images

The strange case of genetically engineered wheat on a farm in Oregon remains as mysterious as ever. If anything, it's grown more baffling.

Read more

5:01pm

Thu July 11, 2013
The Salt

Are Antibiotics On The Farm Risky Business?

Originally published on Mon November 18, 2013 4:25 pm

These pigs, newly weaned from their mothers, are at their most vulnerable stage of life. They're getting antibiotics in their water to ward off bacterial infection.
Dan Charles NPR

You've probably seen the labels on meat in the store: "Raised without antibiotics." They're a selling point for people who don't like how many drugs are used on chickens, turkey, hogs and beef cattle.

Read more

Pages