A San Francisco biotech startup has managed to 3D print fake rhino horns that carry the same genetic fingerprint as the actual horn. It plans to flood Chinese market with these cheap horns to curb poaching.
Apparently the critique from conservation groups:
Selling synthetic horn does not reduce the demand for rhino horn [and] could lead to more poaching because it increases the demand for “the real thing.” In addition, production of synthetic horn encourages its purported medicinal value, even though science does not support any medical benefits.
A good reminder why public policy professionals could benefit from introductory economics. Consumption of rhino horn will increase as the price falls, but high cost suppliers (i.e. poachers) should be driven out. Probably their production cost is higher at lower quantities, so assuming consumers can actually distinguish the real thing, that minority will pay higher prices. I think the conservationist is saying that people will develop a taste for rhino horn, but even then it’s hard to see why they would purchase poached rhino horns.
I did not sit down and draw my supply and demand curves, but if I am wrong I trust my commenters to tell me so.