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Gerald R. Fink, Ph.D.
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In 1992, we celebrated the 500th anniversary of quite a remarkable event in human history -- Christopher Columbus' discovery of the Americas. In the meeting between the two cultures, European and American, the Native Americans presented Columbus with a remarkable gift more valuable than the gold and spices that he set out to find. The gift to Columbus was a super cereal that the Native Americans developed.

When Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, he may have observed scenes like this depicted by the great Mexican artist, Diego Rivera. You can see here a feverish marketplace but the most important thing in this scene -- one every Native American would have seen immediately -- is in this enlargement and that is corn. Corn was the staple of the New World and it was a New World invention. It was not found in Europe before Columbus' visit.

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