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

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

2:39am

Tue July 9, 2013
The Salt

As Biotech Seed Falters, Insecticide Use Surges In Corn Belt

Originally published on Wed July 10, 2013 1:56 pm

Crop consultant Dan Steiner inspects a field of corn near Norfolk, Neb.
Dan Charles NPR

Across the Midwestern corn belt, a familiar battle has resumed, hidden in the soil. On one side are tiny, white larvae of the corn rootworm. On the other side are farmers and the insect-killing arsenal of modern agriculture.

Read more

3:27pm

Thu June 27, 2013
The Salt

What The Rise Of Cage-Free Eggs Means For Chickens

Originally published on Sat June 29, 2013 8:32 pm

Cage-free chickens in Harold Sensenig's barn near Hershey, Pa., get to roam and perch on steel rods, but they don't go outside.
Dan Charles NPR

The typical life of an egg-laying chicken is beginning to change dramatically.

Ninety percent of the eggs we eat come from chickens that live in long lines of wire cages, about eight birds to a cage. Animal welfare groups have long been campaigning against these cages.

Read more

2:41pm

Wed June 19, 2013
The Salt

And The Winner Of The World Food Prize Is ... The Man From Monsanto

James Finley AP

Ever heard of the World Food Prize? It's sometimes called the "Nobel Prize for food and agriculture," but it has struggled to get people's attention. Prize winners tend to be agricultural insiders, and many are scientists. Last year's laureate, for instance, was Daniel Hillel, a pioneer of water-saving "micro-irrigation."

Read more

12:25pm

Wed June 12, 2013
The Salt

Court To Monsanto: You Said You Won't Sue, So You Can't

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 12:33 pm

A farmer holds Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybean seeds at his family farm in Bunceton, Mo.
Dan Gill AP

A federal appeals court slapped down a quixotic legal campaign against Monsanto's biotech patents this week.

Organic farmers had gone to court to declare those patents invalid. The farmers, according to their lawyers, were "forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement" if their field became contaminated by Monsanto's genetically modified seed.

Read more

2:20am

Fri May 31, 2013
The Salt

Michigan Tracks Cattle From Birth To Plate

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 9:54 am

Whenever a steer or cow leaves a farm in Michigan or goes to a slaughterhouse, it passes by a tag reader, and its ID number goes to a central computer that keeps track of every animal's location.
Dan Charles NPR

When you pick up a cut of beef at the store, would you like to know that animal's life history? The technology to do this does exist — at least in Michigan, where the state requires all cattle to carry electronic ear tags. It's the only state that requires such tags.

Michigan's cattle-tracking system was forced on farmers because of a crisis. Fifteen years ago, cattle in part of the state started catching tuberculosis from wild deer.

Read more

Pages