U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White Tuesday denied a request for a preliminary injunction against using Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beet seed during the upcoming planting season.

The ruling means sugar beet growers will not be stopped from using genetically modified (GM) seeds during the upcoming growing season.

sugar-beets3-featured.jpgFrom his bench in San Francisco, the federal judge ruled against the Organic Seed Alliance, Center for Food Safety, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the Sierra Club in the lawsuit.

In the ruling, Judge White said it would put too big a burden on sugar beet growers across the United States as 95 percent of them use Roundup Ready sugar beets.

Sugar beets are the source of half of the sugar produced in the United States.

Sugar beet growers quickly embraced Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds when they were introduced two years ago.  Roundup Ready means the seeds resist weed killers, reducing time and material costs for controlling weeds in beet fields.

Organic sugar beet growers, however, fear cross-contamination from the genetically modified crops.  Along with the environmental groups, they filed close to the lawsuit deadline to get the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct more safety studies before allowing the planting of Roundup Ready sugar beets.

White doubted that growers could find alternatives to Roundup Ready seed with the growing season nearly underway. “If this court were to ban the planting and processing of the genetically engineered sugar beet root crop, there would not be enough conventional seed for a full crop this year,” White’s order said.

The judge also said his ruling on the preliminary injunction should not be read as an indicator one way or the other on how he might rule once the issue is heard.

Ground zero for the dispute is Oregon’s Willamette Valley, from which seeds for both the organic and GM markets originate.

Previous decisions by White have largely favored the organic side, including a finding that USDA did not adequately study the environmental impacts of GM beets before giving the green light.