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.

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. The post, by journalist Andrew Schneider, claimed that most honey on supermarket shelves isn't really honey. As evidence, the site cited tests showing that there is no pollen in most of that honey. (Raw...

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? The lack of hard, cold cash for land and farm equipment, apparently. The National Young Farmers' Coalition asked more than a thousand young farmers what their biggest problems were. Most of the respondents said "lack of capital" and "land access." Those difficulties...

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. The American Honey Producers Association claims that Chinese companies are evading American trade restrictions on Chinese honey by sending it first to other Asian countries, especially India and Vietnam, which have free access to the American market. The honey is then re-labeled and sent on to the U.S., constituting the "largest food...

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. Harvard economics professor emeritus Peter Timmer's life and career was shaped by that food crisis in the 70s. Timmer, who's also a fellow at the Center for Global Development, lived through it as a young economist doing field research in Indonesia, and much of his work has been aimed at preventing another one. The events...

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. And the most frightening thing about it is that no one can...

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. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture took 13 different genetic lines of broccoli that were released by seed companies over the...

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 . I hear cheering. Farm subsidies are wildly unpopular almost everywhere except among the people who receive them. After all, why should taxpayers...

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? It's a good question, because agriculture is probably the single most destructive thing that humans do to the earth....

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...

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? Last week, the world's leading experts on the origins of corn at the University of Wisconson-Madison , added a new twist to King Corn's still-evolving story. They pinpointed a particular mutation that happened 23,000 years ago in corn's...

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. But what if that water runs out, leaving fields wilted and stomachs empty? In some...