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.

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The Salt
10:43 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Aerial Photos Are New Weapon In Organic Civil War

The Cornucopia Institute commissioned this photo of an organic egg producer in Saranac, Mich. According to Cornucopia, the facility is owned by Herbruck's Poultry Ranch, which has a license to maintain up to 1 million chickens on this site.
Courtesy of The Cornucopia Institute

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 5:11 pm

If you look at it one way, these are the best of times for organic egg and milk producers. They can barely keep up with demand. Prices for their products are high. Profits are rolling in. Operations are expanding.

But that expansion is provoking suspicion, name-calling, and even clandestine investigations within the organic "community" because some organic advocates believe that some of these megafarms are not truly organic.

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The Salt
12:05 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Fringe No More: 'Ancient Grains' Will Soon Be A Cheerios Variety

The new box of Cheerios + Ancient grains cereal.
General Mills

Originally published on Wed December 10, 2014 9:26 am

So-called "ancient grains" have moved with breathtaking momentum from America's culinary dissident fringe toward the mainstream — and now they've arrived. After all, what's more mainstream than Cheerios? In January, General Mills will introduce a new version of its flagship breakfast cereal, called Cheerios + Ancient Grains.

The new version of Cheerios will contain small amounts of quinoa, Kamut wheat and spelt along with the traditional oats.

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The Salt
3:15 pm
Fri December 5, 2014

Why Did Vitamins Disappear From Non-GMO Breakfast Cereal?

The Original Grape-Nuts, which now bear a non-GMO label, no longer contain vitamins A, D, B-12 and B-2.
Claire Eggers NPR

Originally published on Sat December 6, 2014 5:18 am

Remember when Cheerios and Grape-Nuts went GMO-free? That was about a year ago, when their corporate creators announced that these products would no longer contain ingredients made from genetically modified organisms like common types of corn, soybeans or sugar beets.

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The Salt
4:28 pm
Thu December 4, 2014

Who Made That Flavor? Maybe A Genetically Altered Microbe

Mattheos Koffas (left), a biochemical engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Andrew Jones, a graduate student in his lab, with a flask of microbe-produced antioxidants.
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 2:37 pm

For practically our whole history of cooking and eating, we've gotten our spices and most flavors (not to mention all of the other basic nutrients that keep us alive) straight from plants.

But researchers and biotech companies are starting to produce some of these nutrients and flavors — especially the high-priced ones — in their laboratories.

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The Salt
2:42 am
Tue December 2, 2014

Of Carrots And Kids: Healthy School Lunches That Don't Get Tossed

Samples of carrots cooked three ways are placed on a table for the kids at Walker-Jones Educational Campus, in Washington, D.C., to sample after they have finished lunch. The crowd favorite will later end up on the school lunch menu.
Claire Eggers NPR

Originally published on Fri December 5, 2014 9:50 am

You can lead a child to vegetables, but can you make her eat them?

A child, for instance, like Salem Tesfaye, a first-grader at Walker-Jones Educational Campus in Washington, D.C. Tesfaye picked up a lunch today that's full of nutrition: chicken in a whole-wheat wrap, chopped tomatoes and lettuce from local farms, a slice of cantaloupe and milk.

But, she confesses, sometimes she throws her lunch out. I ask her what she did today. "I threw all of it away," she says softly.

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The Salt
2:54 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

Why American Honey Importers Are Wary Of 'Turkish' Honey

An apiary on the outskirts of Chengdu, China, produces about 440 pounds of honey a day. American honey importers say they suspect the uptick in honey coming from Turkey actually originated in China.
Liu Jin AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 5:38 pm

Turkey is a land of fine honey. Bees produce more of the sweet stuff in Turkey than in any other country except China. And Turkish consumers happily eat most of it themselves. Very little Turkish honey is exported. When it is, it usually commands premium prices.

But some American honey producers say they've observed something odd: cheap Turkish honey headed to the U.S. The U.S. producers think it's not really Turkish honey — and that it actually comes from a country farther to the east.

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The Salt
1:33 pm
Wed November 19, 2014

Just What Is In Pumpkin Spice Flavor? (Hint: Not Pumpkin)

The flavor of the season, you may have noticed, is pumpkin spice. Food companies have gone overboard on the stuff. There are pumpkin spice ice cream sandwiches, pumpkin spice-flavored almonds and, of course, pumpkin spice lattes.

Comedian John Oliver couldn't take it anymore.

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The Salt
5:28 am
Sun November 16, 2014

Big Data Companies Agree: Farmers Should Own Their Information

A global positioning receiver on the top of a combine harvester at a farm in Warwick, Md., in June. The equipment uses sensors and computers to help drive the combine along the route where the crops were planted, judge the composition of a crop and generate crop yield reports.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Some of the biggest names in American agriculture, ranging from farmers' organizations to private companies like Monsanto and DuPont, have agreed on principles governing the use of data collected from farms.

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The Salt
2:01 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

How 'Double Bucks' For Food Stamps Conquered Capitol Hill

These wooden tokens are handed out to shoppers who use SNAP benefits to purchase fresh produce at the Crossroads Farmers Market near Takoma Park, Md. Customers receive tokens worth twice the amount of money withdrawn from their SNAP benefits card — in other words, they get "double bucks."
Dan Charles NPR

Originally published on Mon November 17, 2014 11:52 am

The federal government is about to put $100 million behind a simple idea: doubling the value of SNAP benefits — what used to be called food stamps — when people use them to buy local fruits and vegetables.

This idea did not start on Capitol Hill. It began as a local innovation at a few farmers' markets. But it proved remarkably popular and spread across the country.

"It's so simple, but it has such profound effects both for SNAP recipients and for local farmers," says Mike Appell, a vegetable farmer who sells his produce at a market in Tulsa, Okla.

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The Salt
2:06 am
Mon November 10, 2014

Want To Grow These Apples? You'll Have To Join The Club

Pinatas are among the new generation of club apples — varieties that are not just patented, but also trademarked and controlled in such a way that only a select "club" of farmers can sell them.
Stemilt Growers LLC

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 7:21 pm

There's an apple renaissance underway, an ever-expanding array of colors and tastes in the apple section of supermarkets and farmers markets.

Less visible is the economic machinery that's helping to drive this revolution. An increasing number of these new apples are "club apples" — varieties that are not just patented, but also trademarked and controlled in such a way that only a select "club" of farmers can sell them.

To understand the new trend, start with the hottest apple variety of recent years: Honeycrisp.

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