Although soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] grows as an inbreeding, generally homozygous, plant, the germplasm of the species contains large amounts of genetic variation. Analysis of soybean DNA has indicated that variation of RFLP (restriction fragment length polymorphism) markers within the species usually entails only two alleles at any one locus and that mixtures of such dimorphic loci account for virtually all of the restriction fragment variation seen in soybean (G. max), and in its ancestors, G. soja and G. gracilis. We report here that tissue cultures prepared from root tissue of individual soybean plants develop RFLP allelic differences at various loci. However, these newly generated alleles are almost always the same as ones previously found and characterized in other varieties of cultivated soybean (cultivars). This repeated generation of particular alleles suggests that much of the genetic variation seen in soybean could be the consequence of specific, relatively frequently employed, recombinational events. Such a mechanism would allow inbred cultivars to generate genetic variation (in the form of alternative alleles) in a controlled manner, perhaps in response to stress.