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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1:33am

Wed November 21, 2012
The Salt

Why Greek Yogurt Makers Want Whey To Go Away

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 11:45 am

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.

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12:40pm

Tue November 20, 2012
The Salt

Coconut Conservationist Seeks Pacific Islands For Fun And Palm Preservation

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 6:59 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.

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3:06pm

Fri November 16, 2012
The Salt

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

Originally published on Sun November 18, 2012 1:47 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.

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2:41pm

Thu November 8, 2012
The Salt

You Can Thank A Whey Refinery For That Protein Smoothie

Originally published on Fri November 9, 2012 7:52 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.

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10:03am

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.

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9:53am

Thu October 18, 2012
The Salt

Top Five Myths Of Genetically Modified Seeds, Busted

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 3:49 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.

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10:02am

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 8:57 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?

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2:23pm

Thu October 11, 2012
The Salt

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

Originally published on Fri October 12, 2012 3:13 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.

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6:03am

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.

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1:15am

Fri October 5, 2012
The Salt

In Haiti, Aid Groups Squabble Over Rival Peanut Butter Factories

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 2:00 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.

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11:25am

Thu October 4, 2012
The Salt

The Cost Of Saving Lives With Local Peanuts In Haiti

Originally published on Fri October 5, 2012 2:05 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?

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1:43am

Thu October 4, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

The Peanut Butter Cure Moves From Hospital To Snack Room

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 8:19 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.

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3:18pm

Mon September 24, 2012
The Salt

Lawsuit Claims Pork Producers Council Scammed $60 Million From Farmers

"The Other White Meat" slogan has been a popular promotion for pork since the 1980s. But a recent lawsuit raises questions about who owns it and who pays.
ugod Flickr.com

You know that ad campaign for pork, the one that called it "the other white meat?" There's a fascinating behind-the-scenes story about that slogan, revealed in a new lawsuit that was just filed this morning by the Humane Society of the United States.

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8:16am

Thu September 20, 2012
The Salt

As Scientists Question New Rat Study, GMO Debate Rages On

Italian farmer Giorgio Fidenato picks up what's left of his genetically altered corn after anti-GMO activists trampled it, back in 2010.
Paolo Giovannini AP

The headlines on the press releases that started showing up yesterday, here at The Salt certainly got our attention. Just one sample: "BREAKING NEWS: New Study Links Genetically Engineered Food to Tumors."

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8:10am

Fri September 14, 2012
The Salt

How African Cattle Herders Wiped Out An Ancient Plague

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 12:45 pm

Scientist Robert Koch holding a post-mortem on an ox thought to have died of rinderpest, circa 1900.
Reinhold Thiele Getty Images

Twice in all of history, humans have managed to eradicate a devastating disease. You've heard of the first one, I suspect: smallpox. But rinderpest?

That's a German word for "cattle plague" a feared companion of cattle throughout history. When outbreaks occurred, as in Europe of the 1700s or Africa in the 1880s, entire herds were wiped out and communities went hungry. Now the disease is gone, eliminated from the face of the earth.

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2:56pm

Thu August 30, 2012
The Salt

On the Farmers Market Frontier, It's Not Just About Profit

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 8:30 am

On a corner in Washington, D.C., where stores burned during riots 44 years ago, there's now a plaza where farmers sell produce on Saturday mornings.
Dan Charles/NPR

Farmers markets are popping up in cities all across the country, and people expect lots of different things from them: Better food, of course, but also economic development and even friendlier neighborhoods.

At its core, though, the farmers market is a business, and it won't survive unless the farmer makes money.

So what's the key to success for these markets?

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12:09pm

Thu August 23, 2012
The Salt

So, Who Sent Those Sick Cows To The Slaughterhouse?

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 9:00 am

A security guard opens the gate at the Central Valley Meat Co., the California slaughterhouse recently shut down by federal regulators after they received a graphic video of cows being mistreated.
Gosia Wozniacka AP

Federal regulators and fast-food companies reacted with unprecedented speed this week to the release of an undercover video that animal-rights activists shot inside a California slaughterhouse. The video — which, we'll warn you, is pretty graphic — shows employees of Central Valley Meat Co. using electric prods repeatedly on cattle that appeared unable to get to their feet.

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1:24am

Tue August 21, 2012
The Salt

How A Biofuel Dream Called Jatropha Came Crashing Down

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 8:37 am

A man harvests fruits of the Jatropha tree in Taabo, Ivory Coast. Jatropha, which is grown in many parts of the world, has fallen from favor as a diesel fuel substitute.
Kambou Sia AFP/Getty Images

From Congress to The Colbert Report, people are talking about the Midwestern drought and debating whether it makes sense to convert the country's shrinking corn supplies into ethanol to power our cars.

It's the latest installment of the long-running food vs. fuel battle.

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1:34pm

Wed August 15, 2012
The Salt

Saving Lives In Africa With The Humble Sweet Potato

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 9:26 am

Sweet potato evangelist Maria Isabel Andrade from the International Potato Center drives around Mozambique in her orange Toyota Land Cruiser.
Dan Charles NPR

A regular old orange-colored sweet potato might not seem too exciting to many of us.

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1:40pm

Tue August 14, 2012
The Salt

Secret Side Of The Drought: Many Corn Farmers Will Benefit

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 9:28 am

President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (second from right) inspect drought-damaged corn on the McIntosh farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa.
Carolyn Kaster AP

You've all heard a lot about this year's devastating drought in the Midwest, right? The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last Friday that the average U.S. cornfield this year will yield less per acre than it has since 1995. Soybean yields are down, too.

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