Given the heated reaction from some quarters to the Scottish Government's ban on growing GM crops in Scotland, it's clear that the issue is not going to go away. The pro and anti debate has been rumbling on in Scotland for decades, even before the protests at the GM trial crops in the Black Isle in 2001. But this time, I sense change is in the air.

Back then, one farmer allowed the genetically modified crop company Aventis (Bayer) to conduct farm-scale trials of GM oilseed rape on his land at Munlochy. A traditional herbicide was to be used on the non-GM side of the field, and a second, glufosinate, was be used on the GM seeds growing in the other half.

The host farmer said he believed GM was the technology of the future, and that in 40 years' time every farm in the Black Isle would be growing GM crops. In fact, no GM crops have been grown in Scotland since.

But it was the first time such a thing had taken place in Scotland and it caused outrage. A neighbouring organic farmer warned his organic status could be removed as a result of the trials, and became one of the most vociferous of the protestors. He was eventually sent to prison.

Fear and suspicion were at the heart of the matter. Would these first-generation GM organisms leave an unwanted – as yet unknown – legacy on the environment and our health?

Small farmers and growers were dismayed that their livelihoods were apparently being put at risk for the perceived benefit of global agribusiness and politicians. It was a classic David and Goliath scenario, and the wee people didn't like it.

Before that, in 1997, the Food and Drink Federation held its first Scottish GM FoodFuture debate in Glasgow; The Herald was media partner. It was intended as an exercise in educating the public, but the audience's questions revealed the depth of unease around the issue. A farmer's wife asked how they could ensure GM crops would not hand control of the whole food market to one or two extremely powerful interests. Another delegate asked, if there is a fish gene in a strawberry and someone is allergic to fish, how will they be affected. Another wanted to know, "Why has the House of Commons chosen to ban GM foods from its dining areas?" As I recall it, satisfactory answers were not forthcoming.

Scroll forward almost two decades, and similar questions are still being asked while the growing of GM crops around the world continues.

But look how the tables have turned. In the face of criticism from National Farmers Union Scotland, scientists and opposition politicians, food minister Richard Lochhead has sided with the antis and announced that the growing of GM crops will be banned in Scotland under new EU rules that allow countries to opt out of growing them. The opt-out will cover GM maize and six other crops awaiting EU authorisation.

He spoke for those Scottish consumers and environmental charities, farmers, crofters, artisan producers, growers and community food networks who don’t want it. He said he did not want to damage Scotland's clean, green brand and gamble with the future of our £14bn food and drink sector.

The Westminster government, on the other hand, despite significant resistance from consumers and environmental groups, has indicated it plans to allow commercial cultivation of GM crops like maize and rapeseed in England, and has the backing of agribusiness, scientific bodies and the NFU.

A more diametrically opposed stance would be difficult to imagine.

Other EU countries are nervous about growing GMs on their land, and it’s expected that France and Germany may also opt out.

Genetic modification is the process of introducing new or enhanced characteristics – herbicide intolerance, insect resistance, enhanced nutrients, drought tolerance – into another organism. It can produce higher yields that withstand higher concentrations of weedkiller; a modified potato could resist blight; fruit and veg could be adapted to last longer.

Doubts are being expressed by an emboldened minority in the current zeitgeist where soil is seen as our most precious asset. Weedkiller-resistant crops’ effect on butterflies and insects; a shrinking diversity of food crops; the pre-selection by a powerful minority of what food we consume and whether GM can really help feed the world are just some of them. GM seeds may perform well one season, but what happens after that?

Whether we like it or not, we're already consuming GM food in what we buy at supermarkets. Foods derived from GM-fed animals don’t have to be labelled as such and are already in the food chain.

GM crops have been steadily insinuating themselves into farming across the world. The amount of agricultural land used for GM crops has reached 181.5 million hectares in 2014, more than 20 times the total land area of Scotland.

The largest producers are the US, Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada. So branded biscuits, cereals and pasta made with GM wheat or soya, GM tomato sauce, cooking oil and some GM processed meats are all around us.

To avoid GM the answer is, of course, to eat local or go organic.

Twenty years ago, Scotland wouldn't have had the courage to stand alone in saying no to GMs. Now David has stood up to Goliath. Who will be first to follow?