In this field study, we compared the bacterial communities inhabiting the rhizosphere of a transgenic, herbicide-resistant sugar beet (Beta vulgaris) cultivar with those of its nonengineered counterpart, using a genetic profiling technique based on PCR amplifications of partial 16S rRNA gene sequences and single-strand conformation polymorphism (SSCP). As a control for the plasticity of the bacterial community, we also analyzed the influence of herbicides, the field heterogeneity, and the annual variation. DNA was isolated from bacterial cell consortia that were directly collected from root material. PCR was carried out with primers that hybridized to evolutionarily conserved regions flanking variable regions 4 and 5 of the 16S rRNA gene. SSCP patterns of these PCR products were composed of approximately 50 distinguishable bands, as detected by silver staining of the gels after electrophoresis. Patterns of the replicates and the different treatments were highly similar, but digital image and similarity analyses revealed differences that corresponded to the positions of the replicates in the field. In addition, communities collected from sugar beet in two successive growing seasons could be distinguished. In contrast, no effect of the transgenic herbicide resistance was detectable. Sequencing of 24 dominant products of the SSCP profiles indicated the presence of bacteria from different phylogenetic groups, with Proteobacteria and members of the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides group being most abundant.