Dan Charles

Dan Charles is an independent writer and radio producer who contributes regularly to NPR's technology coverage. He is currently filling in temporarily as an editor on the National Desk, responsible for coverage of the environment and the western United States. He is author of Master Mind: The Rise and Fall of Fritz Haber, the Nobel Laureate Who Launched the Age of Chemical Warfare (Ecco, 2005). He also wrote Lords of the Harvest: Biotech, Big Money, and the Future of Food (Perseus, 2001), about the making of genetically engineered crops. From 1993 to 1999, Charles was a technology correspondent for NPR.

Charles covers a wide swath of advanced technology, including telecommunications, energy, agriculture, computers, and biotechnology. He's reported for NPR from India, Russia, Mexico, and various parts of Western Europe. Before joining NPR, Charles was a U.S. correspondent for New Scientist, a major British science magazine.

He studied economics and international affairs at American University, graduating magna cum laude in 1982. In 1982-83, he studied in Bonn, West Germany, under a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service. He was a guest researcher at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg, Germany, in 1986. In 1989-90, he was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

8:00am

Fri November 25, 2011
The Salt

Relax, Folks. It Really Is Honey After All

Originally published on Fri November 25, 2011 8:03 am

When is filtered honey really honey? The answer may lie in the politics of imported food.
Filippo Monteforte AFP/Getty Images

Maybe we're too inclined to believe the worst about supermarket food.

How else to explain the reaction to a recent report about honey on the web site Food Safety News? Food Safety News is published by a lawyer who represents plaintiffs in lawsuits against food manufacturers and processors.

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10:27am

Tue November 15, 2011
The Salt

Newbie Farmers Find That Dirt Isn't Cheap

Originally published on Tue November 15, 2011 10:45 am

Jameson Small uses a late-1800s seeder to plant lettuce at Tuttle farm in Dover, N.H. Small is part of a group of young farmers who are taking care of the land as the owners await a buyer.
Jim Cole AP

Local food is fashionable. Customers are swarming farmers' markets. Organic vegetables sell at a premium. So what's to keep a young, smart, enthusiastic would-be farmer from getting into this business and making a good living?

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3:53pm

Mon November 7, 2011
The Salt

When Taking The Pollen Out Of Honey Makes A Sticky Mess

A report says that pollen is often filtered out of honey sold in the U.S., which could make it hard to determine if the honey came from a safe place.
Ellen Webber/NPR

Allegedly, there's a tsunami washing up on American shores. It originates in Chinese beehives and the American beekeepers who've spotted it are hopping mad.

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4:55am

Sun November 6, 2011
The Salt

A Food Security Expert On When 200,000 Tons Of Rice Went Missing

Originally published on Sun November 6, 2011 4:58 am

A farmer carries harvested rice on his shoulders in a paddy field in India.
Anupam Nath AP

In 2008, food prices around the world surged and awakened fears – which continue to this day — that the world could re-live the disastrous food shortages of the early 1970s.

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11:30am

Wed November 2, 2011
The Salt

How Fear Drove World Rice Markets Insane

Nothing is more basic and simple than food. Yet it comes to us courtesy of a long, complicated supply chain that spans the globe.

That chain delivers food cheaply — but it can break. Four years ago, it blew up in most spectacular fashion, affecting hundreds of millions of people who rely on rice for sustenance. That crash — the great rice crisis of 2008 — was a true disaster for some of the poorest people in Asia and West Africa.

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12:19pm

Fri October 21, 2011
The Salt

New Varieties Haven't Taken The Nutrition Out Of Broccoli

Newer varieties of broccoli may be prettier than the old ones, but they're probably no less nutritious.

Shullye Serhiy iStockphoto.com

Quick question: Are vegetables less nutritious than they used to be?

You're free to argue about this, because scientists haven't managed to come up with a clear answer.

There's some new data out this week in the journal Crop Science, and at least for broccoli, the answer seems to be no. But keep reading, because the story gets a little more complicated.

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2:22pm

Mon October 17, 2011
The Salt

Farm Subsidies Birds And Fish Would Choose

This wetland in Iowa was created with money from conservation subsidy programs.

Lynn Betts USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service

With the 2012 farm bill coming up fast, we're taking a closer look at what it is and how it shapes food policy and land use in an occasional series. This is part three.

Capitol Hill is a scrum of lobbyists fighting over a shrinking budget these days, and farm subsidies are under attack as never before. Some of those subsidies appear likely to die.

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4:56pm

Wed October 12, 2011
The Salt

Facing Planetary Enemy No. 1: Agriculture

Originally published on Thu October 13, 2011 8:43 am

Early morning view of an automated irrigation system in on a farm in Sudlersville, MD

Cliff Owen AP

For the past 200 years, ever since Thomas Malthus published his Essay on the Principle of Population, big thinkers have been wondering whether Earth-dwellers will eventually run out of food.

Today, a global group of scientists released a fresh look at the question. They add a different, environmental twist to it. Can we feed the world without destroying the environment?

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4:49pm

Thu October 6, 2011
Planet Money

Why 158 Acres Of Corn Costs $1.5 Million

Originally published on Fri October 7, 2011 11:16 am

Yours for $1.5 million.

Robert Smith NPR

I went looking for a bubble the other day. I'd heard that prices for American farmland were spiking – up thirty percent over the past year, and double what people were paying five or six years ago. It sounded like irrational exuberance.

I flew to Iowa, drove to the town of Colo, an hour north of Des Moines, and dropped in on a land auction. It was a great scene: A hushed crowd of farmers, an auctioneer with a voice made for opera, and a climactic duel between rival bidders, one of whom raised the price with a wink, the other with a slight nod.

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10:52am

Mon October 3, 2011
The Salt

Today's King Corn Can Thank A Jumping Gene

Scientists unlock another piece of the puzzle about the evolution of corn.

Luis Acosta AFP/Getty Images

Ever wonder where your food came from? No, I mean where it really came from — as in, where did humans first find the plants that we now depend on for survival, like potatoes or wheat or corn, and what made those plants such generous providers of food, anyway?

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7:07am

Wed September 28, 2011
The Salt

Water, Water, Everywhere, But Not Enough To Waste

Here's a fact worth pondering: Farming accounts for 70 percent of all the water that's used for any purpose, worldwide. And demand for it is growing, along with the planet's population and our increasing appetite for meat. That's according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which recently published this poster and others in a striking series on the vital role of water in growing our food.

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