The request for a preliminary injunction against the planting of Roundup Ready sugarbeets was denied this week. That’s a drastically different outcome compared to the court-ordered ban on the planting and sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa while USDA completed an environmental impact statement (EIS) on the crop. That lower-court decision has put the forage crop’s fate in limbo for nearly three years.

The sugarbeet decision, made by U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White, allows growers to continue planting Roundup Ready sugarbeet varieties across the U.S. this spring. On Sept. 21, 2009, White ruled that USDA will have to complete an EIS for Roundup Ready sugarbeets. The plaintiffs in the case: Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club and High Mowing Organic Seeds.

More than 1 million acres of Roundup Ready sugarbeet varieties have been planted in 10 U.S. states and in two Canadian provinces for the past four years. In North America last year, roughly 95% of the sugarbeet acreage was safely planted with Roundup Ready varieties, according to Monsanto.

A Center for Food Safety press release reports that the coalition will continue to argue for a permanent injunction at the next court date, set for July 9 in San Francisco. “While Judge White denied the preliminary injunction, he indicated that permanent relief is likely forthcoming,” the press release states. It went on to quote Judge White: “The parties should not assume that the Court’s decision to deny a preliminary injunction is indicative of its views on a permanent injunction pending the full environmental review that APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) is required to do.”

The Roundup Ready alfalfa lower-court injunction, in the meantime, still holds. The public comment period on a draft EIS was completed this month and a final EIS should be out in the next few months, followed by a decision on deregulation – or not – of the transgenic crop.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether, in 2007, the lower federal court acted hastily and incorrectly by banning the sale of biotech alfalfa, despite extensive scientific evidence documenting the safety of the crop, according to a press release from the American Farm Bureau Federation. See “Ag Groups Support Biotech Alfalfa.