Brief – 14 July, 2010 – About 200 leading researchers have gathered in Cairns for an international conference looking into the future prospect of farmers “growing” plastic.

In the next few decades, scientists believe advances in technology could see plant oils replace petroleum as the precursor for plastics.

CSIRO plant industry deputy chief Allan Green told the Australian Associated Press that growers would be able to attract higher prices by selling their crops to plastic manufacturers, leading to an industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

“Some of the industrial oil targets we are looking at, they are probably 50 per cent higher than their value as food oils currently,” he told AAP.

“That translates straight to the bottom line of the farmer because it’s all the same growing costs.”

Dr Green said that plant oil plastics would provide a greener, renewable alternative to conventional plastics and that trials of safflower oil polymers could begin in Australia in about five years.