I'm in the middle of reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollen and it's amazing. It's a closeup look at the modern American food chain, which mostly begins with corn. So far, I'm only up to the chapter about beef, and the description of feedlots makes me want to look for grass-fed beef.
But the book starts with the history of corn, how it's evolved and adapted and been shaped by humans. It sort of blew my mind. I love books like this, that help explain how things work and illuminate mysteries that I wasn't even aware of as being mysterious. Did you know there is no such thing as wild corn? In fact, corn relies entirely on humans to plant it. It's incapable of reproducing itself, without intervention by someone like us (or raccoons, I guess). And did you know that feeding corn to cows increases the likelihood of e Coli contamination and makes beef less healthy for us to eat? Grass-fed beef is healthier for all involved (and I do mean ALL - the land, the cows, the people, the environment, etc).
The author talks with an Iowa corn farmer and bemoans the low price of corn. I see now that the price of corn is shooting up, largely because of ethanol. It'll be interesting to see what affect that has on a food chain (and economy) built around cheap corn.
Anyway, great book. I highly recommend it.