Quantitative and qualitative studies of various aspects of the perception of biotechnology were conducted among 469 Slovenian high school students of average age 17 years. Our research aimed to explore relationships among students' pre-knowledge of molecular and human genetics, and their attitudes to four specific biotechnological applications. These applications-Bt corn, genetically modified (GM) salmon, somatic and germ line gene therapy (GT)-were investigated from the viewpoints of usefulness, moral acceptance and risk perception. In addition, patterns and quality of moral reasoning related to the biotechnological applications from the aspect of moral acceptability were examined. Clear gender differences were found regarding the relationship between our students' pre-knowledge of genetics and their attitudes to biotechnological applications. While females with a better genetics background expressed a higher risk perception in the case of GM salmon, their similarly well-educated male colleagues emphasized the risk associated with the use of germ line GT. With all four biotechnological applications, patterns of both rationalistic-deontological and teleological-and intuitive moral reasoning were identified. Students with poorer genetics pre-knowledge applied an intuitive pattern of moral reasoning more frequently than their peers with better pre-knowledge. A pattern of emotive reasoning was detected only in the case of GM salmon. A relatively low quality of students' moral reasoning, as demonstrated by their brief and small number of supporting justifications (explanations), show that there is a strong need for practising skills of argumentation about socio-scientific issues in Slovenian high schools on a much larger scale. The implications for future research and classroom applications are discussed.