Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis smiling in front of a dense cornfield

Corn

An ear of white corn, partially unhusked
“If you’re standing in a field in Iowa, there’s an immense amount of food being grown, none of it edible. The commodity corn, nobody can eat. It must be processed before we can eat it. It’s a raw material—it’s a feedstock for all these other processes. And the irony is that an Iowa farmer can no longer feed himself.”
—Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma


Corn is everywhere—in everything from apples to antifreeze, body lotion to batteries, margarine to magazines.

The story of corn’s ubiquity is a long one: a complex tale that begins more than 6,000 years ago in the dry valleys of Mesoamerica and continues on today in grocery store aisles—and the halls of Congress.

Grown on every continent except Antarctica, planted on 93 million acres of United States land, and finding its way into nearly everything on the dinner table, the humble corn plant may just be the most influential crop that society has ever seen.


A close-up of many corn kernels Trace the a-maze-ing story of corn from its ancient kernel days to modern pesticide-resistant hybrids.
View the corn timeline >>
A side view of a red tractor Corn is everywhere, but not necessarily fueled by market demand. Farm subsidies have become big business.
Read about corn and the Farm Bill >>
Boxes of Coca-Cola and other beverages in a supermarket aisle In foods from ketchup to chips, high-fructose corn syrup has become the most valuable food product made from corn.
Learn about the corn sweetener industry >>
Several cows confined behind a wire fence Grain-fed cows. Factory-bred chickens. Corn is cheap feed for today’s livestock, but what's the impact on human health?
Find out about cows and corn >>

Updated 4/14/08

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