For millennia, selective breeding, on the basis of biparental mating, has led to the successful improvement of plants and animals to meet societal needs. At a molecular level, DNA shuffling mimics, yet accelerates, evolutionary processes, and allows the breeding and improvement of individual genes and subgenomic DNA fragments. We describe here whole-genome shuffling; a process that combines the advantage of multi-parental crossing allowed by DNA shuffling with the recombination of entire genomes normally associated with conventional breeding. We show that recursive genomic recombination within a population of bacteria can efficiently generate combinatorial libraries of new strains. When applied to a population of phenotypically selected bacteria, many of these new strains show marked improvements in the selected phenotype. We demonstrate the use of this approach through the rapid improvement of tylosin production from Streptomyces fradiae. This approach has the potential to facilitate cell and metabolic engineering and provide a non-recombinant alternative to the rapid production of improved organisms.