Corn can be found in thousands of everyday items[1], from the corn starch that holds your pizza crust together[2] to corn syrup in beverages to plastics. Humans have been resourceful in finding the uses for corn.

Modern-day corn goes back about 10,000 years, the Genetic Science Learning Center[3] at the University of Utah reports. Its ancestor, called teosinte, was a grass that looks very different from today’s maize plant. It produced small, thin “cobs,” that were two or three inches long[4] and contained five to 12 hard kernels.


Humans used traditional breeding techniques[5] to breed the most desirable traits from each generation of teosinte to create today’s 12-inch ears of field and sweet corn. Teosinte’s hard kernels were difficult for humans to chew, so the firmness was bred out of the plant. Today, more than 500 easily-chewable kernels adorn each ear of sweet corn.

Whether it’s a 4,000-acre farmer in the United States or a two-acre farmer in the Philippines, corn is an important part of agriculture. Farmers around the world now grow corn to: feed themselves and communities; feed livestock; and use for industrial applications, such as medicine, plastics and biofuels. Corn’s versatile nature has propelled it to be grown on the second-most acreage in the world, behind wheat.

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[1] Source: Kentucky Corn Growers Association. Corn is All Around Us. (5, August 2016). Obtained from:

[2] Source: Monsanto Company. America’s Farmers. Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Corn. (5, August 2016). Obtained from:

[3] Source: University of Utah. Genetic Science Learning Center. Evolution of Corn. (5, August 2016). Obtained from:

[4] Source: National Science Foundation. Scientists Trace Corn Ancestry from Ancient Grass to Modern Crop. (5, August 2016). Obtained from:

[5] Source: University of California Museum of Paleontology, National Science Foundation. Understanding Evolution. The other green (r)evolution. (5, August 2016). Obtained from: