George Poste calls for the creation of international biobanks as part of research efforts on disease and drug-response biomarkers (Nature 469, 156–157; 2011). As the director of Israel's biobank and a member of international biobank organizations, I must point out that this can only work if the use of genetic information is guaranteed to be non-discriminatory.

Laws that guard against such discrimination are essential for public trust in biomedical research and to protect the identity of donors, but few countries have laws in place that are sufficiently comprehensive — including the United States (R. Korobkin and R. Rajkumar N. Engl. J. Med. 359, 335–337; 2008).

The need to safeguard genetic information is becoming more urgent. For example, personal sequence data sent over the Internet by direct-to-consumer providers are insufficiently protected; and biobank donors or customers who are protected in their home country may still face discrimination by employers or insurers in another. Such concerns risk discouraging potential donors and will hinder international biobanking efforts.

Calls to issue a genetic information non-discrimination amendment to the Helsinki Declaration of Human Rights have been voiced for some time (J. Harris and J. Sulston Nature Rev. Genet. 5, 796–800; 2004). That might not solve all biobanking problems, but it could improve the international situation. The grim statistics on the poor yield of clinically valuable biomarkers serve as a sober reminder that the time has come for such an amendment.