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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3:40pm

Thu February 27, 2014
The Salt

Chickens That Lay Organic Eggs Eat Imported Food, And It's Pricey

Originally published on Tue March 4, 2014 10:26 am

Empty shelves where eggs should be at a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C. The store blames increased demand for organic eggs.
Dan Charles NPR

The other morning, I found myself staring at something strange and unfamiliar: empty grocery shelves with the word "eggs" above them. The store, a Whole Foods Market in Washington, D.C., blamed, in another sign, the dearth on "increased demand for organic eggs."

This scene is unfolding in grocery stores across the country. But Whole Foods' sign wasn't telling the whole truth. Demand for organic eggs is indeed increasing, but production is also down.

The reason behind that shortfall highlights an increasingly acute problem in the organic industry.

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2:40am

Thu February 20, 2014
The Salt

The System Supplying America's Chickens Pits Farmer Vs. Farmer

Originally published on Thu February 20, 2014 8:23 am

Benny Bunting, a farm advocate for Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, in front of one of his old chicken houses in Oak City, N.C.
Dan Charles NPR

After reading Christopher Leonard's The Meat Racket, a broadside against the contract-farming system, I decided to take a closer look at it.

I drove to North Carolina and ended up in the kind of place that supplies practically all of our chickens: a metal-sided, 500-foot-long structure near the town of Fairmont.

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2:44am

Wed February 19, 2014
The Salt

Is Tyson Foods' Chicken Empire A 'Meat Racket'?

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 1:38 pm

Chickens gather around a feeder in a Tyson Foods poultry house in Washington County, Ark.
April L. Brown AP

Christopher Leonard's new exposé on the chicken industry, The Meat Racket, doesn't devote much ink to the physical object on our plate, the chicken meat itself.

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2:40am

Tue February 4, 2014
The Salt

How American Food Companies Go GMO-Free In A GMO World

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 7:12 am

Allen Williams grows corn and soybeans for Clarkson Grain, which has been selling GMO-free grain to Japan for years.
Dan Charles/NPR

Quite possibly, you've noticed some new food labels out there, like "Not made with genetically modified ingredients" or "GMO-free." You might have seen them on boxes of Cheerios, or on chicken meat. If you've shopped at Whole Foods, that retailer says it now sells more than 3,000 products that have been certified as "non-GMO."

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11:07am

Mon January 27, 2014
The Salt

Soil, Weedkillers And GMOs: When Numbers Don't Tell The Whole Story

Originally published on Mon January 27, 2014 3:12 pm

Farm statistics: usually illuminating ... occasionally misleading.
Seth Perlman AP

I love numbers. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I think a good bar graph can be worth a thousand pictures.

But three times in the past few days, I've come across statistics in reputable-looking publications that made me stop and say, "Huh?"

I did some investigating so you don't have to. And indeed, the numbers don't quite tell the story that they purport to tell.

So here goes: My skeptical inquiry into statistics on herbicide use, soil erosion, and the production of fruits and nuts.

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