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.

If you're curious about what people really think about some of the hottest of hot-button food controversies, the Pew Research Center has just the thing for you: a survey of attitudes toward genetic modification, organic food and the importance of eating healthfully. The survey results are published in a 99-page report that can keep you occupied for days. But if you're pressed for time, here are some of the most interesting highlights that caught our eye. 1. A lot of Americans don't care what...

The day after Donald Trump swept to victory, the head of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Zippy Duvall, released a videotaped statement aimed at the President-elect and other political leaders in Washington. "Rural America turned out and made their voice heard in this election," he said. "Now it's time for our elected leaders to support rural America." In his statement, Duvall referred interchangeably to "rural Americans" and "America's farmers and ranchers," suggesting that those are the...

Are the many hog and poultry farms of eastern North Carolina creating "fields of filth," as two groups of environmental activists put it last summer? And if they are, what happens when a hurricane comes along and dumps a foot and a half of water on them? The two groups, Environmental Working Group and Waterkeeper Alliance, just issued a partial answer. It's a report filled with overhead photos taken in early October, in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. They show flooded poultry barns and ...

There's a seductive idea, currently being road-tested, for how to stop the world's forests from disappearing. It relies on big food companies. That's because most forests are being cleared in order to grow crops or graze cattle. And the resulting palm oil, soybeans or beef find their way into foods being sold by a relatively small number of global companies. So here's the strategy: Get those companies to boycott products from deforested land, and much of the economic incentive to clear more...

Matt O'Hayer thought he was in the idyllic part of the egg business. He's CEO of Vital Farms , based in Austin, Texas, which markets eggs from hens that run around outdoors, on grassy pastures, at about a hundred different farms. "I thought that there's nothing more beautiful than eggs, where you have sort of a symbiotic relationship; you take care of the hen and she gives you this little gift every day," says O'Hayer. Until a few years ago, he never thought about where those hens come from,...

Nobody loves pesticides, exactly. But one kind of pesticide, called neonicotinoids, is provoking a particularly bitter debate right now between environmentalists and farmers. The chemicals are highly toxic to bees. Some scientists think they are partly to blame for the decline in pollinators. For the past year, the province of Ontario, in Canada, has responded to the controversy with a novel experiment. Ontario's government is asking farmers to prove that they actually need neonicotinoids,...

Last summer, I went on Morning Edition to talk about the quest for a great-tasting tomato. And at the very end of the conversation, I confidently declared that no one should ever put tomatoes in the refrigerator. It kills the taste, I said. That's what I'd heard from scientists and tomato growers alike. Afterwards, I heard from several friends. It seems I'd taken sides in a domestic dispute that has long divided husbands and wives. Someone on Twitter also pointed out a blog post that seemed...

About one-third of all the food produced globally is either lost or wasted. Pests and infections destroy fruits and vegetables. Grains often rot in storage or during transport. And then there's food in consumers' kitchens and refrigerators that doesn't get eaten, and eventually discarded. Such losses amount to more than $900 billion globally , according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization. Reducing this wastage could save money and help meet the world's growing demand for food. And...

Farmers, more than anyone else, manage America's land and water. They grow crops or graze cattle on more than half of the country's land outside of Alaska. "Farming has huge impacts on water. Huge impacts on wildlife. It has big impacts on air, especially from animal feeding operations," says Craig Cox , senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the Environmental Working Group , or EWG, a nonprofit environmental organization. Agriculture, for example, has been blamed for...

Most of America's poultry producers have been promising to cut back on the use of antibiotics in recent years. One of them, however, has consistently led the way. Perdue Farms, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore, began getting rid of antibiotics from feed in 2007, eliminated the drugs from its hatcheries in 2014, and last year it announced that more than half of its chickens received no antibiotics at all. This week, Perdue announced that it has ended the routine use of all antibiotics in its...

For all the international furor over genetically modified food, or GMOs, the biotech industry has really only managed to put a few foreign genes into food crops. The first of these genes — actually, a small family of similar genes — came from a kind of bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis , or Bt. Those genes make plants poisonous to certain insect pests. These genes are a pillar of the entire industry. But that pillar is wobbling. Three of the four Bt genes that are supposed to fend off...

No chemical used by farmers, it seems, gets more attention than glyphosate, also known by its trade name, Roundup. That's mainly because it is a cornerstone of the shift to genetically modified crops, many of which have been modified to tolerate glyphosate. This, in turn, persuaded farmers to rely on this chemical for easy control of their weeds. (Easy, at least, until weeds evolved to become immune to glyphosate, but that's a different story.) Glyphosate had been considered among the safest...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST: Bayer, the German company that makes aspirin made a big announcement this morning. It is buying Monsanto, the biotech pioneer based in St. Louis. The deal is huge, valued at $66 billion dollars. And if it goes through, approved by regulators, the combined companies will be one of the largest Agri-chemical companies in the world. Joining us now is NPR's Dan Charles who is on a reporting trip to a big agricultural...

Like so many brilliant innovations, the idea seems obvious in hindsight. Just combine college, coffee, and chemical engineering. Of course! But no one, apparently, hit upon this magic formula until a few years ago, when William Ristenpart and Tonya Kuhl , two engineering professors at the University of California, Davis, started discussing ways to give young undergraduates a hands-on introduction to their new discipline. Engineering programs are creating such experiences in order to fight...

In the ferocious, sprawling brawl over genetically modified crops, one particular question seems like it should have a simple factual answer: Did those crops lead to more use of pesticides, or less? Sadly, there's no simple answer. Pesticides include both insecticides and herbicides. Backers of GMOs point to the example of crops containing new genes that fight off insect pests, so farmers don't have to spray insecticides. Biotech critics point to the example of crops that have been altered to...

It's been four years since scientists first started accusing a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics for short, of killing bees. These pesticides are used as seed coatings on most corn and soybean seeds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking a new look at neonics, but it hasn't imposed any new restrictions on the pesticides. Now Minnesota is stepping ahead on its own. Last Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton ordered a variety of steps to help pollinators, including bees....

The U.S. Department of Agriculture took a largely symbolic step to help struggling dairy farmers this week. It announced that it will buy $20 million worth of cheese and give it away to food banks. The USDA is doing this, it says, to help "reduce a cheese surplus that is at a 30-year high." Food banks were happy to hear this news. Cheese is popular among their clients and often hard to get. This government donation will have a significant impact on their operations. Dairy farmers were happy,...

The nation's first "soda tax" on sugar-sweetened beverages, which went into effect in Berkeley, Calif., last year, appears to be working. According to a new study , consumption of sugary drinks — at least in some neighborhoods — is down by a whopping 20 percent. That estimate results from what Kristine Madsen , a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health, calls a "perfect natural experiment." In the fall of 2014, voters in Berkeley and San Francisco, on...

Milk prices are in the tank. You may not have noticed this, since prices in the supermarket have fallen only slightly. But on the farm, it's dramatic. Dairy farmers are getting about 20 percent less for their milk than they did last year; 40 percent less than when milk prices hit an all-time peak two years ago. "We're losing money," says Dave Drennan, executive director of the Missouri Dairyman's Association. In Europe and Australia, dairy farmers have taken to the streets to protest their...

I did a little experiment the other day. I stood outside a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C., with two cartons of large brown eggs. One carton had the words "Non-GMO Project Verified" on it, with a little orange butterfly. It also said cage-free. The other carton had a different label; a green and white circle with the words "USDA Organic." One other crucial difference: the organic carton cost 50 cents more. I asked shoppers which carton they would buy. "They both sound good," says Anna...

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When agricultural extension agent Tom Barber drives the country roads of eastern Arkansas this summer, his trained eye can spot the damage: soybean leaves contorted into cup-like shapes. He's seeing it in field after field. Similar damage is turning up in Tennessee and in the "boot-heel" region of Missouri. Tens of thousands of acres are affected. This is no natural phenomenon of weather or disease. It's almost certainly the result of a crime. The disfigured leaves are evidence that a...

Flour seems innocuous. We've long been warned to wash our hands after handling chicken, and to cook our hamburgers well. We wash lettuce that came straight from the field. But really, flour? This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reminded everyone that flour is, in fact, a raw, uncooked food, just like those fresh greens. Yes, it can make you sick. The agency announced that 46 people, so far, have been sickened by E. coli that apparently contaminated flour sold by General...

Most of us — and by "us," I mean urban and suburban consumers like me — don't usually get to meet the people who pick our apples, oranges or strawberries. So about a year ago, I decided to launch a series of stories about the people who harvest some of America's iconic seasonal foods. Many of these workers move from place to place, following the seasons. I visited workers who were harvesting apples in Pennsylvania, sweet potatoes and blueberries in North Carolina, and oranges and strawberries...

After years of bitter debate and legislative stalemate over the labeling of genetically modified ingredients, a compromise proposal sailed through Congress in breathtaking speed over the past three weeks. The House of Representative passed the measure on Thursday with solid support from both Democrats and Republicans. It now goes to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it. Within a few years, consumers will be able to find out whether any food in the supermarket contains...

The season for blueberries used to be short. You'd find fresh berries in the store just during a couple of months in the middle of summer. Now, though, it's always blueberry season somewhere. Blueberry production is booming. The berries are grown in Florida, North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan and the Pacific Northwest — not to mention the southern hemisphere. But in any one location, the season is still short. And this means that workers follow the blueberry harvest, never staying in one...

Cleaning a freshly picked head of lettuce can be an act of mindfulness, your worries melting away as you wash and tear each leaf. And the payoff, along with the beautiful summer salad, is a feeling of virtuous accomplishment. But if you're a busy working parent, the rip-and-release salad kit in a bag can take some hassle out of dinner prep. As a culture, it's clear which direction we're headed. Per capita sales of fresh iceberg lettuce have fallen by half over the past 25 years, but there's...

After months of bargaining and backroom arguments, the Senate has voted in favor of a new national standard for labeling food that contains ingredients from genetically modified crops. The essence of the deal: Companies will have to disclose their GMO ingredients, but they won't have to put that information right on the label. Many food companies are fiercely opposed to such GMO labels because they believe consumers will perceive them — incorrectly — as a warning that those products are...

A few weeks ago, I went back to the federal prison in Seagoville, Texas, for another conversation with Edgar Diaz. Diaz, you may remember, is the yogurt-obsessed entrepreneur whose story appeared here in The Salt last year. He had built a small, award-winning company in Dallas called Three Happy Cows. It was losing money, though, and when a new set of investors took over and ordered changes, Diaz felt betrayed and dispossessed. In a fit of anger and paranoia, he set fire to his own yogurt...

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