Are organic foods actually good for the Earth?

(Getty / file)
(Getty / file)

Questions are being raised over whether organic food really is better for the planet, with some scientists claiming it uses more land and creates more greenhouse gases.

Going to the supermarket can cause a series of moral dilemmas for consumers.

Buy local, buy seasonal, free range, sustainable - when buying food we're encouraged to consider whether it's both healthy for us and the Earth.

Brendan Hoare from Organics New Zealand says there's nothing better for the earth.

"There's increased biodiversity both above ground and below ground in organic productions systems," he said.

"So below ground there's microbial activity, like worms and small microbes there's a whole ecology happening in there.  There's increased flower for bees and insects and that increases bird numbers."

But New Scientist claims that due to lower yields, organic farming uses more land, and the Head of the Institute of Agriculture and Environment at Massey University says there's some truth to that.

"Realistically, if we just tried to feed the world through organic farming we'd have to clear a lot more land, but that's a hypothetical thing," Professor Peter Kemp said.

Organic farming is small-scale compared to conventional farming, so land clearance doesn't actually happen.

"Within our standard, you are not allowed to cut down virgin rainforest - or any forest in that matter," he said.

New Scientist also says organic farming produces more greenhouse gases, which Prof Kemp agrees with.

"Organic farming by and large would be less efficient than conventional farming because conventional farming produces more with fewer resources," he said.

But Organics New Zealand insists its practices remove more carbon dioxide than they make.

Prof Kemp says the reality is organics alone won't produce enough food to feed the world - but there's no harm in buying it if you want to.