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

2:28am

Thu December 20, 2012
The Salt

The Paradox And Mystery Of Our Taste For Salt

Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 10:37 am

Bali sea salt and a spoonful of Hawaiian red alae salt.
Jim Noelker AP

Salt is one of those dangerously tasty substances. We add the magical crystals of sodium chloride to almost everything that we cook or bake, and according to many public health experts, we add too much.

They want us to cut back, to lower our risk of heart attacks or strokes.

Yet when you really start looking for ways to do this, you run into a paradox and a scientific puzzle.

First, the paradox. Too much salt may kill us, but our bodies need some of it to survive.

Read more

10:02am

Wed December 19, 2012
The Salt

Peak Farmland? Some Researchers Say It's Here

Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 3:34 pm

A soybean field near Campo Verde in western Brazil in January 2011. Researchers argue that enough arable land is already under cultivation to feed the planet for the next several decades.
Yasuyoshi Chiba AFP/GettyImages

If you're looking for a dash of optimism about the future — and who isn't, these days? — you can find it in a rosy new prediction about the planet's ability to produce food for the next half-century.

Read more

4:15pm

Mon December 3, 2012
The Salt

Can Big Food Kick Its Obesity Habit? Does It Really Want To?

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 12:11 pm

A sign protesting a beverage tax in Richmond, Calif. The U.S. soft drink industry has fought proposals that would put a tax on sugar sweetened beverages like sodas and energy drinks.
Braden Reddall Reuters /Landov

A few days ago, two big names in food policy squared off for a formal debate on the following proposition: There is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the food and beverage industry's interests and public health policy interests on obesity.

Read more

2:33am

Wed November 21, 2012
The Salt

Why Greek Yogurt Makers Want Whey To Go Away

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 12:45 pm

Most of the gleaming steel tanks outside Fage's yogurt factory hold milk. One, however, holds the yogurt byproduct whey.
Dan Charles NPR

A few months ago, I let you in on a little secret about Greek yogurt. Not all of this extra-thick, protein-rich yogurt is made the old-style way, by straining liquid out of it it. Some companies are creating that rich taste by adding thickeners, such as powdered protein and starch.

Read more

1:40pm

Tue November 20, 2012
The Salt

Coconut Conservationist Seeks Pacific Islands For Fun And Palm Preservation

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

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

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.

Read more

4:06pm

Fri November 16, 2012
The Salt

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

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

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

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.

Read more

3:40pm

Thu November 8, 2012
The Salt

You Can Thank A Whey Refinery For That Protein Smoothie

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

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

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.

Read more

11:03am

Fri October 19, 2012
The Salt

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.

Read more

10:53am

Thu October 18, 2012
The Salt

Top Five Myths Of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted

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

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

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.

Read more

11:02am

Tue October 16, 2012
The Salt

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

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

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

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?

Read more

3:23pm

Thu October 11, 2012
The Salt

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

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

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

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.

Read more

7:03am

Mon October 8, 2012
The Salt

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.

Read more

2:15am

Fri October 5, 2012
The Salt

In Haiti, Aid Groups Squabble Over Rival Peanut Butter Factories

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

Alex E. Proimos Flickr.com

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.

Read more

12:25pm

Thu October 4, 2012
The Salt

The Cost Of Saving Lives With Local Peanuts In Haiti

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

Alex E. Proimos flickr

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?

Read more

2:43am

Thu October 4, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

The Peanut Butter Cure Moves From Hospital To Snack Room

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

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

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

Read more

Pages