The Brazilian Cerrado, a savanna ecoregion of tree and grass species covering approximately two million square kilometres south and east of the Amazon rainforest, is threatened by the expansion of agriculture and pasture. Since 1979 in the north-eastern region of Brazil, soyabean, cotton and maize cultivation on modern farms have rapidly expanded at the expense of Cerrado vegetation. The rise of soya is especially dramatic. In 1979, soya was hardly planted in the north-east, but in 2004, approximately 1.3 million hectares were cultivated with soya, with nearly two-thirds just in the western region of Bahia state (USDA, 2005a: 23). Meanwhile, environmental activists and state offi cials often complain that recently created farms lack the required 20 per cent of farm area as Legal Reserve (LR), which, according to federal forest and environmental crimes legislation (Brannstrom, 2001: 1348), must remain in native vegetation. The ensuing environmental debate on modern farming is led not by state agencies, but, surprisingly, by a private association of farmers.