Is Broccoli Man-Made? [Myth Busting!]

It is time for a myth busting blog post because there are many false notions going around about wonderful broccoli. Rumor has it that broccoli is GMO but that is not true.

Broccoli is artifically selected from a wild growing cabbage variety called Brassica oleracea which is thought to originate in the region of Italy. However, this natural breeding process took hundreds of years and doesn’t make broccoli a GMO.

As we’re becoming more conscious of what we are putting into our bodies, the false idea that broccoli, a healthy fibrous vegetable, is genetically made may have come as a shock. But I am here to put your mind at ease – broccoli is a natural plant that is perfectly safe to eat.

Don’t believe me yet? Let me explain further why broccoli is man-made but not GMO.

is broccoli man made

Where Does Broccoli Come From?

Broccoli is a cruciferous plant from the same family as cauliflower and most cabbage varieties. They all have the same origin, an undomesticated plant called Brassica oleracea.

Although we cannot exactly pinpoint where this plant grew first, there are historical records of it in roman agriculture some 2000 years ago. Like cauliflower, they bred the plants with more flowers over hundreds of years, eventually creating what we now know as broccoli.

People have bred special varieties of naturally occurring fruit and vegetables for as long as they have been farming. This is done to create species that are more resilient and bountiful to the specific climate.

It is a very slow process and nothing like lab-made genetically modified foods. We make call it artificial selection but it is a natural process.

Artificial Selection, Genetically Made and GMO: The Key Differences

Let’s do a rapid-fire section on what broccoli is and what it isn’t. It is important that you understand the differences in these terms.

  1. Is Broccoli Artificially Selected?

Yes, the broccoli that we know today is artificially selected from the undomesticated plant Brassica oleracea.

What Does This Mean?

Artificial selection means that broccoli is not a vegetable variety that occurred naturally in nature. It was bred from Brassica oleracea by farmers using a process of selective pollination.

  1. Is Broccoli Genetically Made?

Yes, broccoli is genetically made but it was never bred artificially in a lab which is why it doesn’t qualify as a typical GMO.

What Does This Mean?

Although the genetic composition of today’s broccoli is a result of human selection, it was not created in a lab.

  1. Is Broccoli GMO?

Broccoli’s genomes have been naturally modified through farming practices, not inside a laboratory.

What Does This Mean?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified which has the association of lab-made food products. Broccoli is not that type of GMO since it was never created inside a lab.

For more information about what makes a vegetable or fruit GMO read this article by Alliance for Science explaining how most of the produce we find in our supermarkets today are not the varieties that grow naturally in the wild.

How Is Broccoli Made

Today, we have more than enough broccoli seeds to harvest them over and over again. They grow in many temperate climates and in some parts of the world are available year-round.

However, it looks very different from its parent plant, the Brassica oleracea. That wild plant looks more like a cabbage greens which grows around rocky areas.

The romans are thought to be the first to breed several cultivars from this plant. To make broccoli specifically, they chose the plants that had the most flowers, the rest were discarded. This is why broccoli and cauliflower look nothing like cabbage even though they come from the same cultivar.

Other Natural but Artificially Selected Vegetables

Want to which vegetables are man-made? Below is a list of all the varieties of vegetables that have been bred from very different-looking wild plants.

  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Kohlrabi
  • Collar greens
  • Gai lan
  • Seakale

Don’t be surprised that you didn’t know some of these greens are related to each other. After all, they look nothing like each other.

This is no surprise, though. As society became more sedentary and needed to feed larger populations living in one place, farmers began to experiment with vegetables that were better suited to the specific growing conditions in the area.

That is why brussels sprouts look nothing broccoli nor gai lan but they still have the same origin. This type of artificial selection doesn’t need the help of any lab tools and has proven highly beneficial to the development of our societies.

Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Eating Broccoli

Don’t worry about eating something that you shouldn’t. Broccoli is perfectly safe vegetable to eat and is in no way factory or laboratory made.

You need to understand that breeding stronger vegetable varieties only helps us to produce enough food. As long as the farmer doesn’t apply any harmful pesticides, broccoli is a safe and natural vegetable.

To know more about the origins of broccoli, visit farmer’s markets and ask the sellers where there broccoli comes from and how they are farmed.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is Broccoli Genetically Modified Cauliflower?

Broccoli and cauliflower both stem from Brassica oleracea but broccoli was not cross-bred from cauliflower. These two vegetables were naturally bred over hundreds of years to the variety we know today.

Is Broccoli a Real Plant?

Broccoli is as real as any other vegetable that you eat. It did not grow naturally in the wild but it is far from a lab-made vegetable.

Is Broccoli a Hybrid Food?

Broccoli is not a hybrid food. A hybrid food is a cross-breeding of two different varieties which broccoli isn’t. However, there are hybrid foods from broccoli and other vegetables such as broccolini and romanesco.


Over a period of hundreds of years, broccoli has been carefully selected from the original wild plant Brassica oleracea. Roman farmers selected the plants with the most flowers to eventually create a plant that looks like the broccoli we eat today. It is completely natural and not a dangerous GMO food.

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