Enzyme variation detected by starch gel electrophoresis was used to investigate the genetic structure of Oryza sativa L. species. Fifteen polymorphic loci coding for 8 enzymes were surveyed among 1688 traditional rices from Asia. Multivariate analysis of the data resulted in identification of six varietal groups, with two major ones, groups I and VI, two minor ones, groups II and V, and two satellite ones, groups III and IV. Group I is found throughout tropical Asia; it encompasses most Aman rices in Bangladesh, the Tjereh rices in Indonesia and the Hsien rices in China. Group VI is found mostly in temperate regions and in high elevation areas in the tropics; it encompasses most upland rices from Southeast Asia, the Bulu rices from Indonesia and the Keng rices from China. Groups II, III, IV and V share common differences from groups I and VI which suggest an alternative evolutionary history. Groups II and V are found in the Indian subcontinent from Iran to Burma. Well-known components of these are Aus rices from Bangladesh for group II and Basmati rices from Pakistan and India for group V. Groups III and IV are restricted to some deepwater rices in Bangladesh and Northeast India. Based on analogy with other classifications, Group I might be considered as the "Indica" type and Group VI as the "Japonica" type. Such terms, however, have a depreciated meaning due to discrepancies among various classifications.