Monsanto ("Holy Mountain") is a small village in the Portuguese mountains, where Spanish Jews found refuge when expelled by the Catholic Kings. “The Monsanto family was a longtime Sephardic family that fled the Inquisition. Isaac Rodriguez Monsanto eventually emigrated to America, later bringing over his brothers and sisters. The family became prosperous merchants, shippers, fur buyers, and bankers in New Orleans, despite the Code Noire. Furthermore, they practiced their Judaism openly, but some in succeeding generations abandoned their ancestral faith. In 1896 Olga Mendez Monsanto married John Francis Queeny, hard-driving chemical entrepreneur. He and his son Edgar Monsanto Queeny created the Monsanto Chemical Company. Fast forward one hundred years, and Monsanto is a large multinational corporation.
Yet Monsanto's very name induces a range of negative reactions in the public – from disgust, to concern, to fear over its power on the food we eat. Bayer will rid itself of the Monsanto name, a chief lightning rod for environmentalists’ opposition to agricultural technology. Although few are aware of the Jewish connection of Monsanto, it is good that the name will be heard no more.