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What is the function of the first paragraph in the passage as a whole?
The first paragraph does describe the modern uses of corn, the second paragraph does describe its evolutionary history, and the third paragraph offers an interpretation of that evolutionary history. The fourth paragraph, however, does not focus on the evolutionary history of corn but on other historical considerations.
While the first paragraph does discuss the modern uses of corn, The third paragraph does not offer a description of the ancient uses of corn but describes a theory which suggests that corn's evolutionary history may have had significant effects on pre-Columbian American society.
The last sentence of the first paragraph makes a claim but does not offer any scientific proof that it is true.
The third paragraph does not prove that the late evolution of corn was historically significant, but suggests that it was. Remember that the author questions the validity of this theory in the fourth paragraph, and we therefore cannot take it as a proven fact.
The first paragraph introduces the subject of the passage: corn. It also claims that an earlier culture equally dependent on [corn] for sustenance might have been severely hampered by its limitations. The second paragraph provides background information to this claim, the third paragraph offers a theory for its possible implications, and the fourth paragraph refutes that theory.