6,000 Year Old Peruvian Popcorn Reminds Us How New GMO Corn Really Is

quinet/CC BY 2.0

Corn has been a point of controversy for the past few years as a result of an onslaught of genetic modification that has made finding none-manipulated varieties nearly impossible. But even though today nearly 9 out of 10 corn crops are genetically modified and often monoculture crops, it hasn’t always been this way.

GMO Corn Really Recent

Both North and South America have been growing corn for thousands of years and it’s only been since the mid-1990's that we saw the first approvals for large-scale commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops. But the change happened frighteningly fast and in 2008, Monsanto's triple-stack corn, which combines Roundup Ready 2-weed control technology with YieldGard Corn Borer and YieldGard Rootworm insect control, was planted on 32 million U.S. acres.

But these indigenous varieties that are being pushed out to make way for GMO corn have been around for nearly 9,000 years and were first planted in Mexico. In fact, Live Science just reported on the world's oldest popcorn found in Peru:

Corn husks, stalks, cobs and tassels (pollen-producing flowers on corn) dating from 6,700 to 3,000 years ago were unearthed at Paredones and Huaca Prieta, two sites on Peru's northern coast, by American and Peruvian researchers.

And the evidence showed that this corn was eaten in a variety of ways including as popcorn.

Again, Live Science:

The researchers also found corn microfossils containing starch grains and phytoliths, which are microscopic particles formed by plants and mainly composed of silicon dioxide. The Peruvian popcorn is the oldest macrofossil evidence for popcorn in South America.

Indigenous Corn Varieties

Corn made its way down to South America after it was first domesticated in Mexico and was grown in a variety of ways. Indigenous varieties began expanding, leaving us with countless heirloom choices like Black Aztec Corn, Bloody Butcher Corn, Brown Sugar Popcorn, Cancho Blancho, Country Gentlemen, and Dakota Black to name just a few.

While finding these varieties in stores is nearly impossible, you can still order them online and plant them yourself. But it would be such a shame to see all these indigenous varieties of corn go out the window as a result of GMO monoculture crops which were just cultivated in the past 20 years.

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Tags: Genetically Modified Food | Local Food | Peru