Maize has become a staple food in many parts of the world, with total production surpassing that of wheat or rice. However, not all of this maize is consumed directly by humans. Some of the maize production is used for corn ethanol, animal feed and other maize products, such as corn starch and corn syrup. The six major types of corn are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn.
Most historians believe maize was domesticated in the Tehuacán Valley of Mexico. Recent research in the early 21st century has modified this view somewhat; scholars now indicate the adjacent Balsas River Valley of south-central Mexico as the center of domestication.
An influential 2002 study by Matsuoka et al. has demonstrated that, rather than the multiple independent domestications model, all maize arose from a single domestication in southern Mexico about 9,000 years ago. The study also demonstrated that the oldest surviving maize types are those of the Mexican highlands. Later, maize spread from this region over the Americas along two major paths. This is consistent with a model based on the archaeological record suggesting that maize diversified in the highlands of Mexico before spreading to the lowlands.
A large corpus of data indicates that it was dispersed into lower Central America by 7600 BP and had moved into the inter-Andean valleys of Colombia between 7000 and 6000 BP .
According to a genetic study by Embrapa, corn cultivation was introduced in South America from Mexico, in two great waves: the first, more than 6000 years ago, spread through the Andes. Evidence of cultivation in Peru has been found dating to about 6700 years ago. The second wave, about 2000 years ago, through the lowlands of South America.