"Let us begin with the enigma of the modern corn plant. The humble origin of corn remains mysterious because the ancestral wild plant has never been
located. It is an established, scientific fact that corn is a cultigen, a plant engineered by humans. This means that it has become so altered by
humans that it cannot reproduce naturally and is entirely dependent upon man’s continued cultivation. In short, it is now a manmade plant and has
been for some time. Scientists have not been able to trace the lineage of corn to the ancestral wild plant. How can this be if the ‘agricultural
revolution’ only occurred 7-8,000 years ago?
Corn is a form of wild grass, as are the majority of the other major crop plants, there is no good reason for the ancestral variety to have vanished
and/or become extinct. 10,000 years may seem like a long time in human terms yet it is a very short time in terms of the evolution and life span of a
plant species. There are ancient plants that have existed continuously for hundreds of millions of years.
If you believe that our ancestors domesticated crop plants, you have to start by assuming that people without any agricultural experience were
brilliant enough to select and breed the best wild seed candidates to turn into major cereal crops. It is a historical fact that in spite of 5,000
years of continuous agricultural development we have not genetically bred a new major crop from a wild species. Just how ingenious were out Stone Age
predecessors who performed this agronomic feat without any agricultural or genetic knowledge?
Basing the agricultural revolution on the notion that people who lacked any understanding of the scientific basis of plant breeding created seems a
very shaky premise. Skepticism is warranted due to the fact that, if it actually occurred, this was the riskiest of gambles, since it represented a
complete departure from the only way of life and only food sources that Stone Age people knew.
But first let’s step back to an earlier point and ask how we know that 100,000 generations of Stone Age humans did not eat wild grass seeds. Our
guts are still not adapted to digest uncooked grains. After all we are not birds. In addition, our Paleolithic ancestors lacked the technology to
harvest, thresh, process and cook wild grass seeds. The seeds of wild species are miniscule and they are attached to the seed heads making them
difficult to harvest and hardly worth the effort.
These are little known facts that raise deeper issues. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors mainly subsisted on leafy greens and lean muscle meats. If they
lacked an extended experience with wild grasses how did they know which ones to select to turn into wheat, rye, corn, barely and rice? In other words
these are still the principal food crops that our civilizations are based upon. After at least 5,000 years of continuous agriculture we do not seem to
have improved upon the first selections of our ‘scientifically ignorant’ ancestors. That hardly seems logical.
This amazingly prescient selection of wild seeds seems not only more than a little surprising it looks to border on being a minor miracle. There are
an estimated 195,000 flowering plants that they could have turned into food sources and primitive man chose less than .01 to base agriculture upon.
This happened at a point in time when people had no concept of domesticating plants or animals, which means no experience with artificial
To further appreciate the paradox that this situation imposes upon us we have to understand, domesticated crop plants are nothing like their wild
ancestors. Farmers have long known this fact. The differences are so great that most of the specific ancestral locations of our cereal crops remain a
mystery. We must ponder what this really means. What are the implications of our scientists not being able to trace the specific wild ancestors of
modern corn, wheat, rye, barely and rice?"